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How Far Would You Drive For An Authentic Italian Experience?

Mazzaro's Market in St. Pete is worth the gas and the time standing in lines. The experience is all part of the "gestalt". The prices are wonderful and it that "experience" that us foodies crave.

Growing up in Connecticut, my parents often loaded us in the car and drove 45 minutes to West Hartford, CT, to stock up on Jewish delicacies from Crown Market. Their pickles, the big kosher hot dogs, pastrami and the coleslaw were all the real deal.

My Nana used to schlep me on  several buses from her apartment in Yonkers to the upper West Side to shop at Zabar's- ah I still dream of the 20 types of lox. So, it is not too surprising that I enjoy driving an hour to go to find VERY good ethnic stores.

Mazzaros Market is on of those places you just might say, "what the heck, a tank of gas for all that homemade pasta, prosciutto and cannolis." Well that is what a mere 1,000 of folks like me did this past Saturday. 

OK, truth be told, when I was first told about Mazzaro's in St. Petersburg, I thought, yeah but is it REALLY that crowed? Is it REALLY as good as the North End in Boston? Hush up all you cynics like me—it is Italy all the way.

I hadn't been in awhile and had NEVER been on a Saturday (word to the wise—go on a Thursday or Friday). Now, don't get me wrong, I love Piccolo's in Gulf Gate, Sarasota and Casa Italia on Constitution but there is something about the drive over the Skyway bridge (if you are coming from the south) that just makes you salivate even more. Just like driving to the Michael Korr's outlet in Ellenton.

There is a plan at Mazzaro's:

1. Make lists for each section and divide up. Did I mention to bring a large cooler and two friends to help?

2. Get someone to get online for sandwiches first and just shove right in there to get a number or you will NEVER get served. Get the eggplant parm—OMG! The only bummer is that the rolls are soft, but for $5 you can buy a 75-cent Rosemary roll at the bakery, which by now one of your runners should be over taking a number. Oh, I almost forgot, to the left of the sandwich counter is a refrigerated case. Buy the smaller pans of baked ziti and lasagna. There are bigger pans up front but you don't have to commit to a big pan if you don't want to.

3. The cheeses are in the wine room in the back right- do that last not as crowded.

4. Get two bone-in monster rib-eyes that are on the long French cut bones. if you are a vegetarian please drop them off at my house. Pick up 2 pounds of sweet Italian sausage bulk and 2 pounds hot Italian sausages.

5. Pasta time—past the sandwich counter—if you can get pass, there is another ticket to grab for deli meats and sliced cheese, prosciutto and fresh pastas. Get the spinach and cheese manicotti and 12 ravioli and 12 specialty ravioli like the chocolate ricotta for a special brunch dessert or the prosciutto spinach and cheese or lobster and ricotta. Now look to the right and you will find the sauces—get two containers of sausage Ragu. Turn to your left just past the prosciutto slicing machine and grab two pizzas—don't wait too long or the only ones left will be chicken and hummus.

6. Find your other runner that is waiting to take a ticket to order at the bakery. Get a half dozen cranberry-orange biscotti, a pan of Tiramisu, a few cannolis and those 75-cent rolls I told you about. If you are a chocolate lover, people say the chocolate, chocolate cream cheese rolls are good but I am missing the chocolate lovers gene so at best I will buy a whole Boston Cream pie—I KNOW, not Italian but it reminds me of my old city that I lived in and where we went to Mike's pastry for the lobster tails—no not Red Lobsters'—delicous flaky pastry filled with Bavarian Cream pastry.

7. Get a small cup of gelato next to the bakery because by now your blood sugar is low.

8. Go get your car that you parked two streets over and bring around to the front. Load everything up in the cooler—except the sandwiches.

9. Drive back home, eggplant parm sandwich dripping into your lap while you reach for a bite of cannoli and head home.

That is a day in heaven and well worth the trip.

Mazzaro's Market

www.mazzarosmarket.com

2902 22nd Ave. St. Pete

Do you have a special place that you would drive hours to buy specialty foods at? Let us know. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Richard B. February 19, 2013 at 07:10 AM
I would love to have a good Eggplant parm! That’s one of my favorites and unless I make it myself, which is time consuming, I’ve had trouble finding places that make them good consistently.
Kris Winder February 19, 2013 at 07:17 AM
The food photos look great! I’m getting hungry looking at the attached pictures!
Sara February 19, 2013 at 04:11 PM
My husband and I went for my birthday lunch - to grab a "light bite" ha! Italian A pannini, meatball sub, cannoli, eclair, gelato and cappucino's later... love to sit at the coffee bar and eat - the people you meet remind me of my relatives back in Connecticut. Such interesting people to chat with including the staff. Love Mazzaro's!
Zigsauered March 23, 2013 at 12:37 AM
Listening to every one here I am going to eat there! Chinese and Mexican restaurants are not authentic in the US. My wife had a fellow worker that called himself Jack from China. Very intelligent man. He was leaving for a new job in New York city, so I thought I would treat Jack and my wife to the town’s best Chinese restaurant. I asked Jack "so what do you think of the Chinese restaurants in America.” He said "It's not Chinese." I immediately and surprisingly responded "what is it?" Jack responded just as quickly with surprise, “I don't know what the hell it is, but it is NOT Chinese!"
Bill Riskus April 13, 2013 at 03:09 AM
It's worth going to Mazzaro's just for the olive bread. When it is warm it is incredibly good!

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