Sunday, July 27, 2014

Is Variety the True Spice of Life? Absolutely!

Olive Bread...Be still my heart!
I love the area I live in! In New Jersey, just outside Philadelphia and an hour or more from New York City, I am truly spoiled by the options spread around me.  Seasons? Yes, all four, bring them on! They absolutely add texture to life. Mountains? Galore. Ocean?, Of course, just pick your favorite activity source! And especially as a foodie, a food blogger and writer, this area continues to captivate me.

And believe me, I have traveled to many states where food "options" are as interesting as white bread. Sometimes just one, chain supermarket, where the most exciting spice was labeled "McCormick". And where most restaurants are limited to the standard franchised chained variety, i.e., dinner at the Outback or breakfast at (heaven help us) the Waffle House.

I'm not trying to be a food snob here (yes, I so am), but maybe it's because being wedged in between two major U.S cities, our area thrives with an ethic diversity that screams for food and flavoring variations!
A full market of cheese, every kind you would want!

I've written many times about the Reading Terminal, in downtown Philly that is literally 10 minutes from my house. It is the country's oldest indoor Farmers Market and there is almost nothing you can't find. It is a food lover's smorgasbord!

And now, yesterday, I found what will become a new favorite haunt about 25 minutes away in Marlton, NJ, A place where I walked in and immediately thought of my grandmother and aunt. Oh, how they would have loved this Italian Supermarket. Yep, (with the exception of a sushi bar among its incredible food court area), this place is a full blown taste of Italy with isles of olive oil and cases of cheese wheels. They had me at "Welcome to Rastelli's".

...and what is cheese without wine!
Stylish, with the ever so popular industrial design, my sister Betty and I walked in, gazed around, turned to each other and said "let's eat first." And so we did! It was hard to choose between the fresh roast pork, broccoli rabe, roasted peppers with provolone cheese sandwich, brick oven pizza, a large arrangement of deli style sandwiches (Caprese Panini, for Bet and an Italian hoagie for me), Java Juice, a variety of homemade soups and coffee bar. There's more. So much more like full meals, such as beef tenderloin, Italian meatloaf, roast turkey...I could go on and on.

Chicken breast stuffed with ricotta cheese, spinach & peppers 
It was definitely smarter to eat before shopping because it is so easy to go overboard when there is so much available. There is little in the way of packaged meats because butchers stand ready behind cases of fresh beef, chicken, and pork. How rare it is to get a custom cut of meat these days! Seafood? It's covered, Sam, who stands ready in the "Shells & Scales" department will help you select the perfect combination for a fabulous zupa di pesce.

Just pass the butter please!
I would need to write an entire other blog to describe the bread in this place. It is the kind that is usually only found on the 9th Street Italian Market in Philly. If bread is truly the staff of life, I am making my claim right here!

Rastelli's made me want to go home and cook. Really cook. Pots of steaming pasta, spicy sauces with sausage, meatballs and cutlets. Sprinkled with the best Parmesan cheese. The only problem, I won't have a functional kitchen for another week. But when it's finished, a trip back will be necessary to fill my house with family, friends and a blend of amazing aromas!

Sam has the goods...

As we were walking out of the market with our basket full, I realized what is right about this place. As someone who loves to cook, it is stimulating. It awakens the senses to the possibilities of creating a great meal. That is how this whole piece started today. Options and variety are crucial to living life well.

...and so much more!

And catching my eye as I left, was a sign standing near the door stating a brief history of what started as a family owned business. The last paragraph is what spoke to me:

"This is not your typical grocery. You can sense that the moment you walk through our door. The variety, the aromas, the freshness, the open market feel, the people who care as much about your food as you do. And we'll go to any lengths necessary. For the love of great food."

And that just about says it all...with one more thing!

Who knew this can was still around?

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