Tucked away in a neighborhood in Millinocket, on the opposite side of the stream from the mill, is a little red building with a wealth of Italian-American treats inside. Orvieto, the deli and eatery opened by the Manzo family in 1992 and now owned by chef-owner Joel Dicentes, is a modern-day tribute to the Italian immigrants that built the mill — and much of Millinocket along with it.
“A lot of those families are gone now, or just moved away,” said Dicentes, himself a Millinocket native. “But at one time this neighborhood that we’re in was called Little Italy. It was all Italian families. They all built houses here.”
At the turn of the 20th century, when the town was founded, city planners and paper industry leaders brought in Italian stonemasons to build the mill. According to a book Dicentes keeps on hand at Orvieto, “Millinocket: Magic City of Maine’s Wilderness” by Dorothy Bowler Laverty, a man named Fred Peluso, known as the “King of Little Italy,” helped to make their transition to life in the Maine wilderness a little easier. He brought Italian foodstuffs for them to buy, he provided them with grapes and flour to make wine and bread, and translated English to Italian and vice-versa.
Though the neighborhood that once was Little Italy now looks like any other pleasant, quiet small-town neighborhood, Dicentes and his family keep serving Italian-American goodies. It was originally named after the small, picturesque town in the Italian region of Umbria, where original owners Dick and Tib Manzo could trace their family heritage back to.
The Dicentes have a huge list of Italian sandwiches on the board, with daily sandwich and panini specials — all made with real Italian meats and cheeses, including an array of salamis, capicola, pepperoni, mortadella, provolone and fontinella. They make red sauce in-house, they make some mean meatballs and the homemade bread is fragrant and sells out quickly.
“We’re kind of off the beaten path, so there are still a lot of people who don’t know we’re here,” said Dicentes, who has owned Orvieto since 2006, after working in the mill for 30 years and then getting a culinary arts degree at Eastern Maine Community College. “I think people get surprised to see a place like this so far north.”
Orvieto is open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. Daily specials are posted on their website, dicensiinc.com, every morning. Fresh bread, sauce and meatballs are available for takeout.