Bringing the North End to the North Shore

Posted: January 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Italian, Marblehead, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Today is the grand opening of Il Mercato, a unique Italian market in Marblehead. The brainchild of Donna Oliviero, who owns Caffe Italia, the market is located in what was the restaurant’s secondary dining area.

Oliviero has been planning the opening for almost a year, and she’s created a destination market by combining foods imported from Italy with take-home entrées and breads made fresh on premises.

The imported foods include olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, packaged almond and ladyfinger cookies (for making tiramisu), panettone, bags of dried oregano still on the stem, and soda in flavors like pear and apricot. There’s also a selection of imported dried pasta in large shapes not usually seen in the states.

A deli case contains prosciutto, mushrooms, anchovies, fresh mozzarella, and a large bowl of colorful olives. On top are arancini (rice balls), hot stuffed cherry peppers, and cannoli shells in two sizes ready to be filled.

Nearby is a selection of fresh-frozen pastas like fusilli, gnocchi, agnololotti, ravioli, manicotti from Original Gourmet Creation in Somerville. Oliviero’s tomato, bolognese, and pesto sauces are available to go with them, as are fresh-frozen porcini mushrooms.

In addition to selling the restaurant’s famous rolls and foccacia, the store carries Italian baguettes, multigrain ciabatta, and olive loaves. Two panini sandwiches are available each day: mozzarella/tomato/olive oil and the daily special. A selection of prepared dinners like lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, and meatballs are available to take home.

Oliviero is offering a huge variety of catering options, from antipasto trays and Italian cookies to entrees like chicken marsala and rolatini eggplant in sizes to designed to feed anywhere from 10 to 25 people. There is also a chef’s table that can be booked for between six and 14 people every night but Monday. The menu is designed with Oliviero to suit your party, starting with appetizer, entrée, salad, and two jugs of wine for $30 per person.

The market’s grand opening is today from 11:00 to 6:00, with a ribbon cutting at 4:00. Permanent hours are 11:00 to 6:00 Monday through Saturday.

Il Mercato / Caffe Italia
10 School St, Marblehead
(781) 631-5700
www.caffeitaliarestaurant.com/home_marblehead.html

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Dish Scoop: Caffe Italia to Open Italian Market

Posted: June 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Italian, Marblehead, Marketplace | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Curious about some recent renovations at Caffe Italia in Marblehead, we spoke with Donna Oliviero, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband Anthony. Oliviero told us the right-hand side of the restaurant space will soon be converted into a market featuring prepared foods and Italian imports. More tables will be added to the bar side to accommodate diners.

Oliviero is understandably excited about the new venture, which will open in early August. For one thing, although she’s been in the restaurant business for 27 years, she has never tried a retail component. For another, this will be the only Italian market of this type in the area.

A large variety will be on offer in the market. Prepared dinners for one will be made fresh and ready to be heated at home ($7.95 each). A selection of à la carte prepared foods will also be available, including stuffed artichokes, stuffed peppers, and arancini.

Bakery items will include Italian bread, the restaurant’s popular dinner rolls, and biscotti. Two sandwiches will be made on the premises-baked bread every day: a daily special and the restaurant’s signature prosciutto, basil, and mozzarella.

Grocery items will include specialty jams, Italian sodas, and dried imported pasta. The restaurant’s pasta will also be available fresh and frozen, along with its tomato sauce, bolognese sauce, and pesto. Pasta and chicken dishes will be available for catering orders to feed anywhere from 10 to 40 people. And last but not least, prosciutto parma, parmesan reggiano cheese, and romano cheese will be sold by the pound.

Oliviero promised to keep us apprised about the exact opening date so we can report back with a review of the food and pictures of the new space.

Caffe Italia
10 School St., Marblehead
(781) 631-5700
http://caffeitaliarestaurant.com/

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Italian Warmth to Thaw Those Mid-Winter Blues

Posted: February 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Caffe Italia, Italian, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Not sure how it happened, but two different times in the past few weeks we found ourselves having a light supper at the bar at Caffe Italia on School Street in Marblehead.

Both the restaurant and bar are very inviting on a frigid winter’s eve; warm lighting, delicious smells, and pleasant staff make it a welcome respite. We weren’t looking for a big meal and, like everyone these days, are keeping a tight rein on our budget, so decided sampling few appetizers might be the way to go.

The bar was hopping both weekend nights we went, mostly with a 40-something crowd, eating as well as drinking. The bar is U-shaped which gives it a convivial atmosphere, and the single large screen tv is at the back of the room, so it doesn’t overwhelm.

Every entrée that went by looked and smelled terrific, making us question the decision to order just apps, but we stuck to the original plan. Both the Guazzeto di Cozza, PEI mussels sautéed with fresh tomato seafood broth, ($10) and the Cappesante, pan-seared jumbo scallops served with spinach and drizzled with balsamic reduction topped with roasted pepper, ($11) were excellent. In fact, we enjoyed the scallops so much we ordered them the second time as well. The Broccoli Stufate, sautéed broccoli rabe, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and a touch of hot pepper, ($7) was tasty, and the only clunker was a potato leek soup on special one night. Lumpy and oily with little flavor, it was a big disappointment.

Where drinks are concerned, the cocktails are reasonably priced, and the wines run from $6 to $7.50 per glass. The wine list is respectable, with the expected concentration of Italian selections. Although the bartenders are eager and attentive, they are also young and inexperienced. When a request for a Manhattan or a Sidecar is greeted with a sure smile but a quizzical look and an inquiry about the ingredients, you know you’re in trouble. Both attempts were palatable, but we suggest these kids bone up on their cocktail knowledge.

We were pleasantly surprised to see Caffe Italia offers live music some weekend nights. Their online entertainment calendar doesn’t seem to be kept up, so you’ll have to call to find out the schedule. On one of our visits, The Transistors, a fun retro rock band, had the place jumping. People of all ages got up and danced, and many of the patrons at the bar found themselves singing along.

So while we have yet to partake of a full meal there, we can recommend Caffe Italia for its warm, inviting atmosphere and the bar as a fun place to have a tasty and inexpensive dinner.

Caffe Italia
10 School St., Marblehead
(781) 631-5700
http://caffeitaliarestaurant.com/

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