WATERVILLE — A passion for Italian food a love of downtown are the impetus for Holy Cannoli owners Candace and Tom Savinelli and Mayor Nick Isgro to combine their culinary expertise and open a high-end Italian market on Main Street.

The market is expected to open in December in the former Barrels Community Market space next to Holy Cannoli, the Savinellis’ Italian bakery and deli at 72 Main St. Barrels, at 74 Main St., closed in July because of financial problems and lack of clientele.

It’s the latest announcement in an explosion of downtown development, including the recent purchase of two historic buildings on Common Street by developer Bill Mitchell and Colby College’s purchase of three buildings on Main Street.

The Italian market, yet to be named, will be in the same building as Holy Cannoli and an archway will be opened between them.

“We will be two separate entities, but they will be joined and have the same mission,” Candace Savinelli said Monday.

The Italian market will feature wine and specialty cheese, ham, salami, imported tomatoes, infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars and imported canned and dry goods, according to the Savinellis and Isgro. A salt bar with various salts also will be featured.

The market’s finished basement will be used for wine and cheese tastings and other events, including demonstrations of how to cook with various oils and other ingredients.

Candace Savinelli said an Italian market is something customers have been asking for and she is excited to be able to meet the demand. Patrons are asking her to carry all sorts of items, including fresh mozzarella, Italian bread, espresso, lupine beans, fresh sausages, pickled eggplant and friselle, a peppery, dry biscuit. Basket cheese, used to make Easter pie — which is like a quiche — also is on her patrons’ wish list.

“The excitement is incredible and we’ve had very positive feedback from all our customers,” she said. “I will try to meet most of their requests. We’ve grown so much because of the support of people who come in. They’ve been wonderful. All our customers are wonderful.”

Isgro said he is delighted to be investing in downtown in the midst of a concerted effort by Colby College, city officials, business people and downtown advocates to rejuvenate downtown, increase retail shops, create more housing and enhance arts offerings.

“I think this business not only plays well off opportunities to expand Holy Cannoli, but it also will provide for what currently is a void in the market, because there is nothing like this in the area, particularly not on Main Street,” Isgro said of an Italian market.

Isgro, a controller at Skowhegan Savings Bank, will not be working in the store.

“My role in this is as an investor, as well as providing the financial and accounting guidance. In the store, we’re going to let Candace do what she does best because she is an amazing person and has incredible instincts for what the market will need and for the needs of customers. She runs a tight ship. I’m extremely excited to watch her continue to flourish within an expanded environment.”

Isgro met the Savinellis when they opened Holy Cannoli three years ago in a smaller space on Main Street. That space now houses Downtown Smoothies, just north of Headquarters Hairstyling on the east side of the street.

After a year, Holy Cannoli outgrew its space and moved to 72 Main St. in a building owned by Ken Eisen, whose business, Shadow Distribution, is on the second floor. Eisen leases the first floor to Holy Cannoli. He leased to Barrels as well.

Eisen said Monday that he was sorry to see Barrels leave, but the high-end Italian market will fit in nicely with Holy Cannoli.

“I think it’s going to be very successful,” he said. “I think it’s a worthy and interesting successor but in a different way, and something which is, in its own way, very, very exciting.”

Like Isgro, Eisen has high praise for Savinelli and her business and culinary expertise.

“I think she’s done a wonderful job there, and I think that she and Nick have wonderful and interesting plans.”

Candace Savinelli is hesitant to take all the credit for the bakery’s success and the ability to expand into the Italian market.

“It would not be possible without my outstanding employees,” she said.

She said she learned how to cook from her mother-in-law, Lilly Savinelli, with whom she was very close. Tom Savinelli grew up in West Haven, Connecticut, where his father, Louis, owned an Italian market that sold cold cuts, canned goods, bread and other items.

The walls of Holy Cannoli are lined with black-and-white photographs of Tom Savinelli’s Sicilian family. The Savinelli family is famous in Italy for cigars and rifles.

As part of the plan for the former Barrels space, which is 2,000 square feet on the main floor and 1,500 square feet in the basement, the floors will be sanded, walls and ceiling painted, and a staircase that previously had been boarded up on the floor opened back up to create access to the basement.

“We’ll have a high-end lounge with comfortable furniture, table and chairs in the basement,” Candace Savinelli said. “I’d like to get a big flat-screen TV so professors can show Italian movies with their classes.”

She also plans to buy some of the shelving from Barrels and have a French section in the market featuring wines, cheeses and other items. The Tuscany decor at Holy Cannoli, which includes green, burnt orange and mustard-colored walls, will continue in the market space.

The Savinellis plan to start making fresh pasta to sell in the bakery, which carries Italian pastries, cookies and cakes, as well as eggplant and chicken Parmesan, lasagna, Stromboli, grinders, wraps, soups and salads. The bakery employs six people, and more will be hired as the market develops.

Barrels, which sold locally grown produce, crafts and gifts, closed in August with a plan to restructure. It had opened six years ago and became a coop two years ago but was not able to sustain itself.

“It closed because the store didn’t develop a sufficient clientele to support it,” said David Shipman, president of the Waterville Food Coop, which operated Barrels.

Shipman said Monday that the leftover food and other items in the store will be either sold or given to food programs.

The cooperative had 175 members, but several hundred people are needed to sustain a successful operation, according to Shipman. He did not rule out developing another cooperative in the future.

“It takes a lot of people to make something like that work,” he said. “It was a good try and it may be that, through all of this, there may be enough interest.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17