Friday, January 18, 2013

Tuscan Market: A Worthy Italian Destination

There is a new Italian market located in Salem, New Hampshire but is it worthy of your patronage? Is it too expensive as some consumers have alleged? Does it live up to its potential?

Last September, I attended a preview event for Tuscan Market, a new Italian food market that eventually opened in November. You should read my prior review for background on this new endeavor. As I said then, "I think the concept behind the Tuscan Market is excellent, a one stop destination for great, fresh Italian food and wine." I was impressed with what I saw and tasted, and believed that Tuscan Market had great potential. Obviously, I wanted to follow up, to determine if it lived up to that potential once it opened to the public.

Recently, I visited the Tuscan Market for the first time since it officially opened in November, having given it a couple months to work out any initial kinks. In short, Tuscan Market has lived up to its potential and is worthy of my highest recommendation. It is a one-stop shopping destination for a diverse variety of Italian foods, wines, ingredients, equipment and much more. Some of the foods are prepared on premises, such as bread and pasta, while others are imported from Italy. There is also a small café where you can grab a bite to eat, such as pizzas and paninos. Having all of these delicious items available in a single location is convenient.

As you enter your store, to your left are the cashiers and just past them is a section of kitchen supplies, from coffee makers to pizza stones and cookware. You can find wine glasses, cork screws and other wine-related paraphernalia. In a different area of the store, there is also a table of Italian cookbooks and magazines. So it is not all just food and wine.

Past the kitchen supplies it the wine room and their selection currently includes about 220 wines, with more coming. Most of the wines are displayed on the above shelves but there is also a small cooler holding white and sparkling wines. Most of the wines are Italian though you will find others from all over the world, from California to France, and the choices range from big producers to small, more artisan ones. Wine tastings are held on Saturdays, from 11:30am-3pm. Prices are reasonable and some even seem low compared to other wine stores.  

These shelves held a variety of packaged foods, many imported from Italy, including dry pasta to tea, tuna fish to sauces. Once again, the prices are reasonable, and some products are even lower than what you will find at large supermarkets. At this point, I am starting to realize that those people who have claimed the market is too expensive might not have been correct.

There are refrigerated coolers holding homemade frozen pastas and other items. Prices also seem very reasonable and you can get 8 big ravioli, such as cheese or mushrooms, for only $5-$6, while lobster raviolis cost $14.39.

Want a homemade sauce? Check out their 16 ounce packages, including such varieties as San Marzano Tomato sauce $5, Bolognese $7, and Wild Boar Ragu $7. If you don't have enough time to make your own sauce, but don't want to use a jar sauced, then these fresh made sauce are an excellent option. And then are less expensive than some jar sauces too.

Ah, the breads! You can watch them baking fresh bread in their ovens and the smell is intoxicating. They had seven types of bread available, including Ciabatta, Focaccia, Roasted Garlic, Rustic Olive, Seven Grain, Cranberry Walnut, and Pane Pugliese, all reasonably priced from $3.99-$5.99. Their Roasted Garlic is amazing, with large garlic cloves inside the bread. I bought a loaf on my visit and it had just come out of the oven. It was even too hot for them to slice. Beware, you might need to buy two loaves as one might not survive your drive, as you decided to tear off a piece and devour it while it is warm.

They have a good selection of cheeses, though not as extensive as you will find in some other larger markets and shops. However, there are plenty of excellent options and prices are comparable to other cheese vendors.

There is also a good selection of cured meats, sausages, hams and such. Prices are also competitive, such as the Prosciutto di Parma at $16.99/pound. Get some wine, bread, cheese and cured meats and you have the makings for a great meal.

Several varieties of fresh pasta were available, including: pappardelle $5.99/lb, orecchiette $5.99/lb, tagliatelle $5.99/lb, and capellini $5.99/lb. I have tried a couple of the pastas, and they both tasted great, with a nice texture. For two people, a pound of pasta may be sufficient for two meals, making the pasta a great value.

Their fresh filled pastas include items like Short Rib Tortelli $8.99/lb, Mushroom Ravioli $7.99/lb, Butternut Squash Cappellacci $6.99/lb, Quattro Formaggi Ravioli $6.99/lb and Maine Lobster Ravioli $19.99/lb. I tried the Short Rib Tortelli and they were delicious, with plenty of moist, tender meat inside a compelling pasta triangle. They did not skimp on the fillings. Again, you get plenty of pasta in a pound, and the prices are very reasonable.

There is a small, but good, selection of meats. You can find a greater selection at a butcher shop but there are plenty of fine options here. You will find beef options such as Filet $22.99/lb and Aged Ribeye $12.99/lb, and prices are comparable to numerous other markets.

There were three different Sausages available, priced $5.99-$6.99/lb, and once again a reasonable price. You will also find another case with packages of marinated meats, from chicken to lamb. Overall, you have plenty of meat choices.

The Market sells a variety of freshly prepared items such as lasagna, arancini, eggplant parmigiana, chicken parmigiana, meatballs and more. The food looks enticing and comes in good-sized portions.

There was not much produce available but that is likely a seasonal issue.

Presently, they sell very little seafood, except for shrimp, but they are working on changing that. Sometime in the near future, they will likely have a much better selection of seafood available.

At their cafe, you have several options and nearly everything is $10 or less. Above, you can see their Panino sandwiches ($8.99), which are pressed to order and are good-sized, and freshly made that day. They were making sandwiches and putting them in the case while I was there. They also have Soup and Salads available, most salads costing $6 except for the Antipasto at $9.

You can also order Pizza, which I tasted and very much enjoyed during the preview event, or a pasta dish with your choice of pasta, sauce, and finish. Prices are reasonable, making lunch very affordable.

There are plenty of dessert options, from Cupcakes ($2.50) to Tiramisu ($2.99), from Cakes to Cookies. You can buy entire cakes or just slices. They even sell gluten free baked goods, though those are not made on premises as they lack a gluten free kitchen.

Or you can try some of the delectable Gelato, coming in a wide range of flavors, priced from Small ($2.69) to Large ($4.69). The gelato is made on the premises and comes in many compelling flavors.

Service was great, the employees all being very pleasant, courteous and helpful. Free food samples are available, enticing you to buy more. Overall, I found the prices here to be very reasonable, and even lower than other food markets. One must also remember that fresh, artisan food products may sometimes cost more than cheap, mass-produced, prepackaged items. However, they are usually worth the higher price. I love the diversity of food and wine available here, especially as all of it can be found under one roof. The Tuscan Market receives my highest recommendation and you should make the easy drive up Rt.93 to Salem to shop here. I will certainly return soon and hope to see you there.


Michelle Collins said...

So glad to hear this place is living up to its potential! I still need to go back, and look forward to doing so.

Unknown said...

This looks like a really nice place in the States! I'm actually going to an authentic Tuscan market in Italy this summer! I'm so excited to study abroad and learn about Italian culture! I'm actually in the process of finding beautiful Villas for Rent in Tuscany to enhance my Italian adventure!