Italian paradise 

A few months ago, a friend told me about a place called Vincenzo’s, a produce market on Garfield, south of Canal (quite a journey for city dwellers at about 18 1/2 Mile). After hearing of the store’s regales, I headed out the following morning. As I drove back and forth on Garfield, it soon became apparent that he was referring to Vince & Joe’s. The market is in the Clinton Center Plaza, also home to Dolce Gelato and Dominic’s pizzeria.

Vince & Joe’s is, first of all, a fruit market. These Italians know their produce! Everything on display is appetizing, to say the least. The staff is constantly culling the overripe and rotating in the new. I had a question regarding the differences between some of the types of eggplant. I got a near doctoral dissertation for an answer, including several recipes.

The seafood department is fresh and odorless, with no fishy smell to drive me away.

Needless to say, there are all kinds of Italian packaged products — pastas, tomatoes,
olive oils, anchovies, sauces and peppers. This is the only store I have found in the metro area that carries Tipo 00 flour, used in Naples for pizza-making. It is very soft and contains little gluten.

There is a selection of about a dozen kinds of olives and several marinated salads such as bocconcini and tomatoes, or pickled beets and peppers.

Outside the store there is a large selection of seasonal plants and flowers for your garden.

But the highlight of the market, for me, is the deli. Several of the other produce markets around town offer a myriad of Italian specialties, Nino Salvaggio’s and Vic’s to name a couple. I cook nearly every day, frequently doing Italian dishes, so I rarely shop for more than the raw ingredients. But Vince & Joe’s has me hooked. If the store were closer to my home, I’d probably cook less. On my most recent visit, the deli offered six or seven varieties of pasta, including chicken Tosca, chicken Milanese and chicken Marsala. There was a killer meat loaf. I never buy meat loaf, but I was encouraged to taste theirs. I took some home.

Rapini, or broccoli raab, is a slightly bitter Italian green, something of a cross between broccoli and spinach. The deli prepares it lightly steamed and then sautéed in olive oil with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. To me this is the essence of Italian food: fresh, simple and straightforward. Vince and Joe must have eaten very well growing up.

In addition, the deli serves lasagna — one vegetarian, one with meat — and manicotti — one with ricotta, one with spinach. Penne in marinara with fresh basil is a winner. Vince & Joe’s red sauce, offered on many of the dishes, is also sold by the quart.

The only dish that disappointed me was the eggplant Parmesan. The ultrathin slices of eggplant were too heavily breaded. The dish as a whole tasted pretty good, but would have been much better with more eggplant. On another recent visit I tried the stuffed mushrooms — I recommend them — and a rice casserole, which is similar to lasagna with layers of rice instead of pasta.

The market’s prepared foods are high-quality and hold up well when reheated. The problem with some carryout food is that it does not always survive the trip home; this fare more than passes the litmus test.

A couple of other dishes deserve mention. First there is arancini, balls of risotto stuffed with either meat or spinach, then rolled in bread crumbs. The crumbs form a thin, crisp crust when deep-fried. When I first encountered a recipe for this, it was called suppli al telefono. When the globes of rice are stuffed with a creamy cheese and fried, the cheese melts inside. When you pull the risotto balls apart, the cheese stretches and resembles the wires between telephone poles — hence the name.

Vince & Joe’s offers a good selection of wine, an international cheese shop, fresh seafood, a deli and a meat department. The meats include Piedmontese beef — the lower-fat, flavorful, tender beef from Piedmont, Italy, that is now raised throughout the United States. Amish poultry is available, as is a fine selection of fresh pork products, including several types of Italian sausage. Breads baked at various local bakeries include those from the Italia Bakery in Windsor, Giuseppe’s, Burghardt’s, Stahl’s and downtown Detroit’s Avalon International Breads, whose artisan loaves are esteemed by chowhounds such as myself. The selection includes baguette, regular Italian loaf and ciabatta, the flat, crusty, chewy bread shaped like its namesake slipper.

The market also offers a line of fresh fruit and vegetable juices from Bolthouse Farms in San Joaquin Valley, Calif.; I tried the Vedge — tomato, carrot and celery — and the Banana Smoothie — a blend of bananas, strawberries and apples. The date on the bottle indicated to drink them before June 29. Since there are no preservatives listed on the “all natural” label, I called Bolthouse Farms and was informed by a family member that the farm turns its produce into juice within 24 hours from the time it is picked. The juice is then refrigerated. The woman I talked to, named Julie, advises drinking or using the potions within 10 days of opening the bottle. But there isn’t much likelihood of Bolthouse juice lasting that long. Other flavors include orange juice and a protein drink with soy, brewed green tea, and chai spices naturally sweetened with a subtle hint of vanilla. The Green Goodness features apples, kiwis, mangos, bananas, pineapples and star fruit. They all contain 100 percent natural fruit and vegetable juices, not from concentrate, with no preservatives. Their Web site is www.bolthouse.com.

Parting words: A sandwich walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food in here.”

 

Vince & Joe’s is located at 41790 Garfield, Clinton Twp. Call 586-263-7870.

Jeff Broder shares his food fascination with Metro Times readers. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com

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