On Ayer's Main Street, a restaurant row under one roof

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September 26, 2017

On Ayer's Main Street, a restaurant row under one roof


AYER -- Let's get a bite to eat.

The suggestion can lead to options: Upscale? Casual pub? Something quick and affordable?

Ayer has you covered.

One block on the north side of Main Street offers all that, in four establishments.

Three are owned by Mark diCicco and share a common kitchen. The other belongs to the landlord, who said he made "Chef Markoh" an offer he couldn't refuse.

Calvin Moore was a frequent customer at Lucia's Tavola in Brookline, N.H., diCicco's 10-table restaurant. Moore happened to have an unexpected vacancy on Main Street after another restaurant left.

He knew the upscale Italian eatery would work in Ayer.

"The more we bring to Main Street, the better for everyone else," said Moore, who owns Billiards Cafe.

Lucia's Tavola opened on Main Street in 2012. It was a success. When they started turning reservations away, diCicco jumped at a new opportunity.

He opened Markoh's on Main in an empty storefront the following year. If disappointed diners couldn't go to Lucia's, they could eat at Markoh's.


An eye doctor closed his office. Tipo's Tacos started in that space in 2015, the only one of the three currently serving lunch.

Lucia's Tavola in Brookline was open from 2009 to 2013.

For diCicco and his team, change is constant.

The most recent change is a re-do of Markoh's. Instead of looking like a pub with an events room for Lucia's, the restaurant is growing into its own.

They said good-bye to the glittery white function room.



Now, the dining room beside the bar is both rustic and industrial, looking more like the pub than a traditional wedding venue.

Diners can order from the seasonally-changing Lucia's menu if they want, but Markoh's own identity is reflected in a new menu that is still rolling out.

Moore, whose own restaurant upstairs serves food, stopped in for supper on a Wednesday when $5 burgers were on offer. Others come for the live music offered a three nights per week.

DiCicco has been known to say that if diners want Chinese food, he will serve that.

"We're going to give them what they want," he said.

Operating three restaurants with different menus from one kitchen is working, he said.

Both diCicco and Matt Besonen, the general manager, have been involved in teaching. The three-restaurant model gives them a chance to grow employees' skills.

In a new employee, they will look for things like reliability, Besonen said.

If someone is doing well, they might make the jump from working behind the taco bar at Tipo's Tacos to being a server at Markoh's.

Growth opportunities keep employees on the job.

Zach Jennings crashed his bicycle in front of Lucia's in Brookline, he got a job washing dishes.

Today, "He is basically the sous chef," diCicco said

Other employees have worked their way through college, diCicco said. A few have become chefs, managers or even own restaurants.

DiCicco had a familial route to becoming a restaurateur. His grandmother put on a big Italian feast every Sunday, making pasta on a repurposed ironing board that lowered out of the wall.

His first restaurant job was washing dishes at the Banyon Club in Ipswich. He also worked on the North Shore, Alabama and in Rome ...Georgia.

Finally, he and his wife decided to live in New England.

He looks at the 45-person staff as a family. Because of the long hours on nights and weekends, the staff often socializes. Like a family, they might fight, but if someone attacks a staff member, everyone will stand behind their co-worker.

"It is the concept of family," diCicco said.

Both diCicco and Moore credit Devens for part of the success. Both cater and host functions for the businesses in the former military base.

The 20,000 cars passing by daily also help. DiCicco said his main advertisement has been word of mouth and, initially, a big QR code in the window.

The internet plays a role. Reservations can be made through OpenTable for Lucia's and Yelp for Markoh's.

As for the future?

DiCicco is looking forward to a planned sushi restaurant on the next block. It is not his restaurant and he welcomes the new food to the neighborhood. 

He will continue to tweak food and decor and even make radical changes -- all depending on what his customers want.

Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.



Read more: http://www.lowellsun.com/business/ci_31326855/ayers-main-street-restaurant-row-under-one-roof#ixzz4tnZynFwr

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