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Eight Great Italian Markets in New York City

06.23.09
Successive waves of Italian immigration beginning a century and a half ago have blessed New Yorkers with the country’s best collection of Italian markets. While many of these shops can be found right in Manhattan, others are located in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx; all are worth the easy subway ride it takes to reach them.
raffetto’s

1. Buon Italia

Located in the sprawling Chelsea Market, Buon Italia (“Good Italy”) offers a bewildering array of modern Italian groceries. If you need to find an obscure pasta shape, this is your place. I counted 87 varieties one recent afternoon, including strozzopretti (“priest stranglers”) and the braided ropes known as lorighittas. Choose among two dozen types of canned Italian tomatoes to make the sauce. A rainbow of Italian olive oils also beckons, as do seasonal items like fresh black truffles and fresh porcini mushrooms. Finally, a cured meat department in the back offers hard-to-find cold cuts like culatello, a cured ham legendarily made from the side of the rump protected by the pig’s curled tail. Chelsea Market, 75 9th Ave. (between 15th and 16th Streets), New York City (212-633-9090; buonitalia.com)

2. Dipalo’s Fine Foods

Knowledgeable and avuncular Lou DiPalo presides behind the store’s cheese counter, dispensing the most amazing collection of Italian cheeses this side of the Atlantic. Crave a Tuscan pecorino? Lou’s got several. Or a selection of buffalo-milk mozzarella recently flown in from Campagna? Lou’s got ’em. This quintessential Little Italy latticini also stocks the bread, preserves, dried sausages, and pickled vegetables that you’ll want to serve with the cheeses, plus an arcane collection of Italian honeys and olive oils. The premises recently tripled in size to include an Italian wine store run by Lou’s son, Sam, and a selection of prepared foods for carryout, representing “a true gastonomia,” with recipes from all 20 regions of Italy, according to Lou. 200 Grand St. (at Mott Street), New York City (212-226-1033; dipaloselects.com)

3. Faicco’s Pork Store

Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights boast the twin outposts of this excellent meat market and salumeria, which makes its own soppressata and capocollo (a spicy neck-meat ham), in addition to dispensing an impressive range of prosciuttos and an array of reasonably priced fresh meat and poultry. You’ve never seen such shining and well-cleaned tripe. A half dozen types of taralli—a navel-shaped cracker from Apulia—are available, as is braciola, the pork or beef roll filled with cheese and herbs that is beloved of southern Italians and perfect for summer grilling. 260 Bleecker St. (near Leroy Street), New York City (212-243-1974); 6511 11th Ave. (at 65th Street), Brooklyn (718-236-0119)

4. Leo’s Latticini

Also known as Mama’s, this establishment in the Queens neighborhood of Corona began as a simple cheese-making shop, but has morphed into a three-store complex, including the original cheese store (where the homemade mozzarella is superb), a ravioli store selling all sorts of fresh and dried pastas, and a bakery, whose cannolis are justifiably notorious (they’re also sold at the nearby Citi Field). The bakery also features a lunchroom with a glorious garden out back. In addition to dried sausages and southern Italian cheeses, many of which hang from the ceiling, the original store fabricates Italian-American heroes, and the cheese-oozing eggplant parm is one of the vegetarian glories of Queens. 46-02 104th St. (at 46th Avenue), Queens (718-898-6069)

5. Raffetto’s

This store specializing in fresh pasta has been planted at the corner of Houston and MacDougal since 1906, and the machine that rolls and slices your fettuccine, papardelle, and linguine has been around at least that long, its conveyor belt creaking and motor groaning as the blades come down on the dough. In addition to egg-enriched plain pasta, Raffetto’s also makes spinach, squid-ink, and mushroom varieties, among others. The raviolis are even better. Find them in the refrigerator case. My favorite is spinach and ricotta, and the fresh ricotta comes from Joe’s Dairy, right across the street. 144 W. Houston St. (at MacDougal Street), New York City (212-777-1261)

6. Arthur Avenue Retail Market

In 1940, when Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia wanted to get pushcarts off the streets, he created a string of indoor markets, of which the Arthur Avenue Retail Market is one of the few remaining. Stalls like Pete’s specialize in veal and variety meats, such as tripe and calf’s liver, while other stalls sell dried pastas and southern Italian prepared foods including pizzas, pastas, and seafood salads. Mike’s Deli slings charcuterie, olives, cheeses, olive oils, and prepared dishes like rice balls and stromboli, many of which originated in Calabria. The antique ambiance is another plus. Closed Sunday. 2344 Arthur Ave., Belmont, The Bronx (no phone; arthuravenuebronx.com)

7. Salumeria Biellese

Don’t be deterred when you step inside Salumeria Biellese: With a long steam table brimming with red-sauced Italian pastas and Puerto Rican pork roasts, this old timer (founded in 1925) just south of Penn Station looks for all the world like a steam-table lunch counter. But the carryout café is merely a front for the city’s most sophisticated purveyor of cured Italian meats, many made on the premises, and fresh sausages. In fact, long before guanciale and lardo became household words, Salumeria Biellese was turning out exemplary versions sought by the cooking cognescenti. Mario Batali was an early fan. 376 8th Ave. (at 29th Street), New York City (212-736-7376; salumeriabiellese.com)

8. D. Coluccio & Sons

Located among warehouses in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, D. Coluccio is a supermarket-sized Italian grocery that goes way beyond the usual selection of dried pastas, olive oils, and canned San Marzano tomatoes (though those items are displayed in exquisite abundance). You’ll find homemade dried sausages, gaily painted Italian serving platters, and cheeses both domestic and imported, some found nowhere else (my favorite: buffalo-milk caciocavallo). As a sideline, Coluccio’s offers a selection of Calabrian deli items, including an antipasto of artichoke hearts, eggplant, broccoli rabe, and sweet red peppers. 1214-20 60th St. (near 12th Avenue), Brooklyn (718-436-6700; dcoluccioandsons.com)

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