Market St. Grocery stocks shelves with local ingredients and unusual products

 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |  May 28 2015

As reported by Melissa McCart, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  May 28 2015:

” Two years in the making, Market St. Grocery has been seeing brisk business since it opened late April as the first Downtown grocery in five years.

The market is building a selection of ingredients and products for the neighborhood’s growing population of residents as well as commuters who work Downtown. Its goal is to provide local ingredients and unusual products as well as staples at competitive prices.

It’s still a work in progress. “Some people come in here and don’t get what we’re trying to do,” said executive chef Michael LaMantia.

Mr. LaMantia is an alum of Parkhurst Dining, a regional hospitality company owned by Eat’n Park and serves colleges, universities, corporations, museums and other cultural institutions. It’s where he led the kitchens at PNC Firstside Cafeteria among others. Mr. LaMantia also helped set up Giant Eagle Market District in Bethel Park.

Today, he is helping to create an ambitious independent market, the result of handiwork in terms of liquor licenses and stores-within-a-store from the partners: developer Ralph Falbo and his stepson, David Priselac; and the Vallozzis of Vallozzi’s restaurants.

It includes a wine bar at the back of the grocery that is also a retail store featuring wines from the Collefrisio winery in Italy. Visitors can buy wine by the bottle or the case, or sip it by the glass at a table.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation rehabilitated the market space, the site of the former Ciao Baby restaurant in the Thompson Building, which was built about 1928.

“We had to work with the city and historic preservation, which took more time in the construction,” said Mr. Priselac. Developers had hoped to open the grocery a year ago.

Mr. LaMantia commented on the kitchen design in the lower level. “It was basically dirt down there,” he said. When they started building out the space, however, they hit brick and cobblestone walkways, which had to be removed.

The prepared foods have the most loyal customers so far, who visit for breakfast sandwiches, as well as lunchtime dishes such as baked ziti, crab cakes, salads and sandwiches.

But “groceries are a finicky thing,” Mr. LaMantia said.

That means there’s some trial and error, such as adjusting the offerings at the cheese counter, for example, from a high-end selection of award-winning cheeses to include pre-sliced offerings for sandwiches, too.

Shoppers may have also noticed occasionally empty meat and produce cases, the result of reorganizing the store and having to order custom cases more efficient for small spaces.

“We are not an industrial-sized scale,” said Mr. LaMantia. “We have to use this to our advantage in terms of ordering and displaying quality products and supplies.”

The market also is gearing up to sell local produce, ordering from local distributor Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance as well as the Chef’s Garden from the Jones family, a well-regarded supplier for fine dining based in Huron, Ohio.

Here are a few standout products at Market St. Grocery: …

Weatherbury Farm grain products

Weatherbury Farm from Avella packages 2-pound bags of polenta ($6.49), buckwheat flour ($7.99) and 1½-pound bags of rolled oats ($8.49), all certified organic. A grain farmer since 2009, Weatherbury Farm led by Nigel Tudor is one of the most progressive in the area when it comes to grains, where he’s milling with an Austrian flour mill. It would be great if the market would also supply whole wheat and white flour, variations of which Mr. Tudor also sells at the farm.