When folks find out we publish articles on authentic Italian recipes and food and live in the New York metropolitan area the inevitable question follows: can you give me a recommendation on a good Italian restaurant? The short answer is no and for several reasons: 1. we don’t believe our area (northern NJ) has many, if any, solid Italian restaurants (outside of the typical Italian American restaurant you can find throughout much of the country), 2. New York City is a mecca for proper Italian restaurants and any serious eater should venture into the Borough of Manhattan to consume already prepared Italian meals. and 3., what the NYC metro area (and specifically southeastern Bergen County and the surrounding areas) has is an abundance of well stocked, well run, and highly authentic Italian specialty shops offering imported and domestic salumi and cheeses, olives, dry goods (e.g, pasta, rice, beans, etc.), extra virgin olive oil, red wine and balsamic vinegar, homemade breads, fruits and vegetables, house made sausage, house made pastas and stuffed pastas such as ravioli, tortellini, etc., canned tuna, sardines, and anchovies, and other imported Italian specialty products and delicacies. So, we often tell our fans skip the Italian restaurants in New Jersey and just head for the Top Italian Delis and Markets: Northern New Jersey; it’s the most authentic way to eat like an Italian the US (at least in New Jersey!).
In turn, here are some of our favorite Italian specialty shops and markets in northern New Jersey with a particular emphasis on what the given shop does very well (excluding already prepared foods which we group into the Italian American restaurant scene). Moreover, each of the shops have excellent service, very knowledgeable staff, and take pride in only offering the very best products (all key attributes of any good market):
Piccolo’s Gastronomia Italiana
484 Bergen Blvd.
Ridgefield, NJ 07657
Tel: (201) 313-0200
Piccolo’s is situated across the street from an Armenian church and right next to the popular restaurant Tutto il Modo Mio in Ridgefield, NJ. Piccolo’s has one of the finest salumi deli cases in the region and they are experts at cutting and packaging whatever cured pork you’re craving. The shop is well run, organized, and packed with most any Italian specialty product you can think of; including a modest fruit and vegetable section. The shop has a particular focus in cheese, dry pastas, extra virgin olive oil, and even household Italian products such as pots, pans, shampoos, kitchen utensils, etc. The only caveat is that the staff behind the counter are a bit slow given how much they love to talk to their customers (this isn’t a bad thing, but, at times, you just want your prosciutto)
Cafasso’s Fairway Market
1214 Anderson Ave. Fort Lee, NJ 07024
Phone: 201-224-7900, 201-224-7159
There’s no relationship with the ever expanding Fairway Market based in NYC, though Fairway Market NJ was involved with some nasty litigation over the mega chain in NYC expanding into NJ (specifically Paramus). Nevertheless, our loyalty is with Cafasso’s Fairway Market in NJ and for good reason. The small, but very well run, market is stocked with the best (and I mean best with a capital “B”) fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, cheese (more on this later), and salumi (including meats from wonderful domestic producers like Creminelli, Far Mani, La Quercia, etc.) in all of NJ. In fact, if we relegated our shopping to just one shop it would be Fairway Market. We especially like the house made whole milk mozzarella (in our opinion, the best in the northern NJ) which is made every few hours given that we never purchased a piece that wasn’t still warm. The market also carries the most diverse bread selection in any market I’ve seen in the US, including bread from Sullivan Street, Balthazar, Il Forno, etc. The fish and meat counters are top notch and the fruit and vegetables leave Whole Foods in the dust. The staff works their butt off stocking and maintaining shelves and is courteous even under the watchful (and critical) eye of the many family members running the shop. The best all around, Italian themed, market in northern NJ.
410 South Dean Street
Englewood NJ 07631
Located in an industrial area of Englewood, NJ, Jerry’s Homemade has an extensive cheese, homemade pasta (including stuffed pastas), wine, extra virgin olive oil, canned goods, and Italian home products. The newly expanded wine area is especially noteworthy with many selections from Italy (including little known wine producing areas in southern Italy) and the staff is super helpful and knowledgeable. The cheese selection is one of the largest in NJ and so is the homemade pasta program. An an added bonus, the shop manages to keep prices fairly reasonable for imported specialty products. Other noteworthy products include house cured olives, Italian waters and sodas, coffees, and varied dry goods.
311 Anderson Avenue, Fairview, NJ.
A tiny, but vibrant, shop in a once exclusively Italian and Croation neighborhood Dante’s Market is famous for its fruit and vegetables especially in relation to price point (there are some serious bargains to be found in this bustling shop). There’s a small deli at the back of the shop that offers a decent selection of salumi, including fresh bread and some Italian specialty products. Dante’s is particular famous for ordering hundreds of bushels of local NJ plum and roma tomatoes for the many Italians in the surrounding areas who can tomatoes for making tomato sauce.
169 Anderson Ave, Fairview, NJ.
Just a few blocks south of Dante’s Market you’ll find Valente Bakery and their excellent coal fired breads. The tiny storefront also produces some of the top whole milk mozzarella in the area which is nicely salted if not a bit on the large side (fresh mozarella, in our view, should be made in small batches given that it’s best eaten the same day and does not store well in the fridge). The shop makes their own sausage and also has a few cold cuts behind the deli case. We like to pick up a fresh bread, a whole milk mozzarella and some nicely sliced Prosciutto di Parma for an afternoon sandwich. Also, if you’re in the area talk a quick walk across the street and visit the Susak Fish Market at 158 Anderson Avenue, the Croation born owner carries a wonderful selection of whole fish (including sardines, sea bass, stripe base, etc.), clams, mussels, and a good selection of varied fish fillets (the prices are good and it’s mobbed during the Christmas holiday season as it’s the place to be to secure all of your fish for the feast of the seven fishes).
44 Bergen Boulevard Fairview, New Jersey 07022
A fairly large shop with a very good deli with many Italian salumi offerings. The shop has a good selection of Italian specialty items and has been in business for 80+ years! Like many Italian specialty shops, they’re emphasizing more prepared foods given economic reasons but it’s a worthwhile stop on your southeastern Bergen County Italian specialty shop tour!
120 Leuning Street
South Hackensack, NH 07606
Located in a highly industrial area of South Hackensack, NJ and right off of Route 80 is a brick oven bakery producing a huge selection of bread, including homemade pizza, focaccia Barese, “sausage bread”, zeppole, taralli, biscuits, and friselle Clementini (they’re a big whole-seller) . The shop also has a ton of prepared food servicing the many office and blue collar workers in the area; it’s an excellent place to have a sandwich made for you. We like the cheese selection and, of course, the bread. We recommend you pick up a few breads and some freshly sliced coppa and make your own sandwich at home (what did you expect!).
Euro Markey/Enzo’s Market
414 Bergen Blvd
Palisades Park, NJ 07650
Bartolomeo Italian Delicatessen
105 N Dean St
Englewood, NJ 07631