Home » The Taste Chase gets baked: Terra Momo (finally) opens its doors in Pennington

The Taste Chase gets baked: Terra Momo (finally) opens its doors in Pennington

by Renata Barnes

Finally – The Bread is Done!

We have bread in Pennington! After weeks, months, and about two or so years, we finally have bread. No more “fakeries” for us!  Visions of crusty baguettes, herbaceous focaccia, loaves of soft buttery brioches, flaky melt-in-your-mouth croissants, and all our other All-Purpose, “00”, whole wheat semolina dreams, have just come true.

Terra Momo has arrived, complete with a fancy French oven and a dream to produce the best, and freshest artisan breads your dinner table has seen in a long time. I’m here for that. All of that.

Carlo Moma, the oldest of the Momo five siblings, along with his brothers Anthony and Raoul, Raoul’s wife Maria, and Pennington Mayor Jim Davy cut the big red ribbon on Wednesday and welcomed those who were gathered to celebrate the latest iteration of the Terra Momo Bread Company to their new Pennington location. Raoul and Maria are taking the helm at this location with an eye to be more than just a bakery. A whirring espresso machine and cafe tables and chairs (something that they don’t have at the Princeton location) will add the appropriate amount of Euro-Bistro mixed with small town Americana, to the sunny space on West Delaware Avenue.

“We needed more room than we had at the Princeton location.” Carlo stated with a welcoming smile. Raoul, is a resident here in Pennington and when the former Pennington Hardware Store became available, ideas about what it could be started rising in their collective minds (see what I did there?)

“Bread has always been a part of our lives. When I was a kid, my mother would send me out to Arthur Avenue for bread. I would eat the ends of the bread before I came home. My mother didn’t like that too much,” Carlo explained. 

Underneath a softened New York accent, this “Bx” native’s voice couldn’t disguise a subtle lilt whose origin I couldn’t quite place. “Our mother is Italian and our father is from South America, Chile,” Carlo added. That explained the cadences and rhythms of Spanish and English that flavored the many conversations I over-heard like a well seasoned focaccia.

“Every good meal starts with really good bread,” remarked Raoul. ”The smell and texture and, of course, the taste. There is meaning in breaking bread – with friends, family, even strangers” 

The clean, airy space with blonde hardwood floors with sporadic smears of sunlight, drew about 40 plus people to celebrate their opening with smiles, hors d’oeuvres, and, of course, bread. Loaves of Italian, French, seeded semolina, pain levain, and others lined the walls behind the counter, with generous samples of their many offerings beckoning guests to partake. Shelves of olive oil and balsamic vinegar from places near and far were stretched across lower shelves like uniformed soldiers while jars of “handmade sustainable jams” were stacked pyramid-style inviting a closer look. An item of note was a jam made with Patagonia berries or Maqui, (google it) which boast a few interesting health benefits. Whether this is true or not, I am sure that Carlo, Raoul, and Maria, have made it a point to include additional accompaniments to elevate your bread experience.

One noticeable thing was missing for me. That warm, inviting, seductive aroma of fresh bread baking that beckons you to come in, gather, commune and then wraps itself around you like the familiar embrace of an old friend.  “Oh it smell like bread.” Raoul assured me,  “but you have to come in a bit early.” He lead me to the famous oven from France, bedazzled with more windows and knobs then the latest Tesla.

“Our bakers start baking at around 5am and you can smell the bread baking then. We come from a pizza background, 30 plus years, and back in the day, they didn’t have ventilation like we do now, like we have to now, so the aroma of bread baking would be everywhere.” He pointed to the exhaust system above us and motioned how the heat from the oven is pulled towards the vents to keep the kitchen cooler.  

“So what makes Terra Momo bread so special? “We use a 30+ year-old leaven, a starter. I have had this same starter for at least 30 years and it’s what gives our bread a particular – a certain flavor and texture.” Carlo talked about the starter like a first love, you know, the one you never forget, the one you knew everything about. “We want to give the starter a bit more time to develop more deeply. In Princeton, we had such a high demand very quickly, there just wasn’t the time for the starter to ferment the way I wanted.”

As I made my way back to the kitchen, I couldn’t help but remember the Pennington Hardware Store that occupied that space, in one form or another, for more than 130 years. I remember fondly how they sold my mother a sump pump and then sent someone over to install it for her. I loved going there and trying to describe something I needed and having the sales person know exactly what it was even though it seemed we were speaking different languages. I recalled the shelves packed to the ceiling, the ladders, the nooks and drawers filled with every kind of hook and nail and pipe fitter. It was crowded, cramped and maze-like. It was wonderfully whimsical, magical even and filled with people who knew the area and made it a point to know the people who lived in it. I looked for vestiges of its former self. They are there. Not hidden but obvious. A ladder in a corner, the shape of the space, the ceiling, the old shop sign, the soul of usefulness. It’s all there, just different.

Ernesto Gonzalez, Terra Momo’s head baker, dressed in chef’s whites, walked about affably, greeting people who ventured into the kitchen, but was also focused. His eyes darting over a computer screen, looking at recipes and calculations, peering at the oven, silently counting what looked to be proofing bowls on a baking rack. “Baking bread is the only thing I have done since I came to this country 30 years ago” the native of Mexico informed me. Of baking bread he said,  ”I love it”. There was a conviction in that statement. Bread is more than just recipes on a computer screen or in a well worn cookbook, and so much more than a means to an end. It is life giving and has always been life giving. 

Alice Barton, had just started her second day of work at Terra Momo on opening day. Formerly, she worked at Wildflour Bakery for nine years before they closed. ”I’m so grateful for this opportunity and I am so excited to learn more about baking bread” she shared. Larry Robinson, who has been with the brothers since they were in pizza, and serves as ‘that guy”, you know the one, the person in the organization who knows everything, names his go-to bread as a good, hearty, country loaf. “It’s softer with not too much chew. Easy for the little ones to enjoy.”

As I made my way to the door, eyeing samples all the way, I saw a familiar family friend, that same family friend that many others noticed that day. The old Pennington Hardware Store sign perched above the door, looking down at me, reminding me. Not really gone, definitely not forgotten, just different. That feeling of usefulness and familiarity was still there but with a new focus, a new purpose. Instead of flathead screwdrivers, staple guns and PVC piping, it’s olive batards, chocolate brioche, and a good baguette. Eventually, there will be someone there who will come to know your name, what you like, and figure out what that thing was that you ate that one time, and they’ll have it there for you. Same soul, new dress. I’ll get the good wine, olive oil and butter. You bring the bread.

Come and get your gluten on!! Terra Momo Bread Company is open and baking!  

15 West Delaware Avenue, Pennignton NJ 08534.

 Open Tuesday – Saturday 7am-4pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

 www.terramomo.com

 Yum it up. Spread the love like butter. Tell all your friends. 

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MercerMe is the only hyperlocal, independent, online news outlet serving Hopewell Valley in Mercer County, New Jersey.

Contact us: [email protected] 

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