Lisa Peterson and Seth Masarik 

Just like family at Boise's a'Tavola

Lisa Peterson and Seth Masarik

George Prentice

Lisa Peterson and Seth Masarik

Between creating the culinary delights at a'Tavola Gourmet Marketplace and Cafe and running catering and cafe operations at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Lisa Peterson can't seem to slow down. Shortly after sitting down for a chat amid a bustling mid-morning at a'Tavola, Peterson leapt to her feet.

"Let me show you something," she said, leading the way out the back door and toward a separate building located behind the cafe.

What she revealed within—an entirely separate Christmas-themed shop of crafts and foods—was one of many surprise discoveries during a visit with the woman who makes the holidays that much more delicious.

What is this place, and why have I never heard of it before?</p>

Peterson: It may be the best secret in town.

What do you call this?</p>

Peterson: Normally, it's our studio craft space.

There is nothing normal about how this space is filled-to-the-brim with things I've never seen in Boise before.

Peterson: You'll find unique little candies all the way to a $500 box of exclusive balsamic vinegars from ancient casks.

How would someone know it's here? You didn't even have a sign on the door.

Peterson: Just ask someone in the cafe. We keep it open each day until Christmas.

You must do a tremendous amount of catering at Christmastime.

Peterson: We put together something called the Christmas Feast. It includes a boneless ribeye roast, caramelized brussel sprouts and roasted grapes and something called a Stump de Noel, a traditional chocolate holiday cake. And people can add any number of other dishes: sweet potato and green bean casseroles, maple-roasted butternut squash with cranberries...

Just thinking about it is making me dizzy, but don't stop.

Peterson: Pumpkin, chocolate pecan and salted caramel apple pies, chocolate peppermint crunch cheesecake...

Do you get special requests?

Peterson: Christmas puddings. We bring them in from England.

I'm afraid to ask, but what else do you have on your plate other than the Shakespeare Cafe and a'Tavola?

Peterson: This year, we began culinary tours. We took two trips this past fall to Tuscany and the Basque Country. In 2017, we'll travel to Provence and the Piedmont region of Italy.

I've talked to you a few times over the years and the one thing I know you take pride in is your ability to find and keep good employees.

Peterson: Well, take Seth [Masarik] here; he started cooking for me at Shakespeare when he was 18. He lived in Spain as a student and moved to California, but when his wife got a job as a BSU professor, he returned to Boise and joined me again; and, now, he's the general manager of a'Tavola.

Masarik: I've known Lisa for almost 12 years. She's my second mom. It's a family. I know a lot of people say that, but it truly feels like that every day here.

How many items do you have in a'Tavola deli cases at any give time?

Peterson: Maybe 40 to 50

Can I assume that a customer favorite is your curried chicken salad? Everyone raves about it.

Masarik: It's the favorite. It sells like crazy. We have jokes about it and we even give each other crazy Christmas gifts inspired by our curried chicken salad jokes.

Are your colleagues working their tails off this week?

Masarik: It's great, this time of year in particular, but the atmosphere year-round is amazing.

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