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What's worth the $ at Citarella? (besides seafood)

Sauntered into the Harlem Citarella Saturday afternoon, and cobbled a lovely lunch out of their samples of bread with olive oil and two kinds of balsamic (the 25-star at $24 being so black and thick and amazing I probably had about $5 worth- not quite as good as what I've tried at Williams Sonoma for about 2 to 3 times the price, however), spicy, chunky merguez, salami, spicy pork sausage, lentil soup, and butter cookies. All was made in-house, save the salami, and all was quite good. Nonetheless, the prices shocked me. Everything in the store was at least a buck or two more than I'd find at, say, Fairway.

So that got me to thinking- is any of it really worth it? What do you splurge on at Citarella, besides seafood? Searching past threads brought up challah and other baked goods. Anything else? Should I stick with Fairway?

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  1. The pastas, especially the tortellinis and raviolis. My faves are the pesto ravioli and the sun tried tomato tortellini.

    1. While I do shop at Fairway occasionally, I can't really compare the prices. But, Citarella is my basic grocery store - certainly cheaper than Food Emporium - I don't buy sugar, flour etc. there, but meat/seafood/cheese (though not my fav. place) etc.

      1. I haven't been up there in eons since I moved out of the city a while ago, however, I think it was Citarella that had this amazing gigantic, white bean salad (I don't remember what kind of beans they were - but it was the only one of its kind) that was to die for. It was very basic, just in olive oil with fresh herbs but it was really transcendent. I might be wrong, could have been Graces - but for some reason I'm thinking Citerella, since I used to go there more often. If it wasn't - I'd run up to Graces to get that alone.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sivyaleah

          UES Citarella has a Greek Bean Salad that sounds like what you're describing. Huge white beans, olive oil, herbs, tomato sauce. (Theirs is red). It's found over by the counter with the sliced salmon. I had higher expectations especially at $5.99-$6.99/lb.

          1. re: Cheese Boy

            No, it did not have tomato in it - just the olive oil and herbs. Maybe it was Graces now that I'm thinking about it...

        2. I'm right in the Fairway/Citarella zone on the UWS. I think Citarella makes a superior roasted chicken. Otherwise, I stick to Fairway for just about everything else - fish included.

          1. I agree with harrison, the roast chicken is impressive. And while I do get seafood there often, I've sort of soured on the quality -- there are times when it's just blatantly not fresh, even in the middle of the week, after they've theoretically gotten their daily shipment (I'm talk about the 3rd Ave/75th location).

            1. Which days do they get fresh fish shipments in? Whenever I ask, they always say "today." Honestly, I gave up on them as the fish isn't reliably fresh.

              1. Ora, the guys I talk to in the fish dept swear that if I come at about 2pm, they'll have fresh fish (they say they get it daily during the week). And I do see they putting out fresh stuff in the early afternoon, often -- it's just that the majority of the stock doesn't seem to get replaced. God only knows how long it stays out there.

                Assuming you're also on the UES, Ora (or anyone else), where do you go for fresh fish in the neighborhood?

                2 Replies
                1. re: sakana

                  I think the UWS Citarella is much better than their sister location on the UES. I like Agata & Valentina for their fish because everytime I'm there, the fish guys are always filleting "something" and are always putting out fresh fish. Give them a try. It's also entertaining to watch those guys fillet a whole tuna on that tiny little butcherblock. If you can picture it, it resembles a person trying to balance a beluga whale on the side of a milk crate.

                  1. re: sakana

                    I shop the UWS location. So, I check both Fairway and Citarella (on same street) to see which one has decent fish for the day. Often, Fairway wins--not that I think its great mind you. I long for the days of reasonably priced fishmongers who really care about freshness. Rents on the UWS make it really hard to get this type of merchant in the neighborhood.

                  2. I mainly shopped at their west village location, but I can vouch for their meat and fishes. They are always fresh and of very good quality. We bought calf liver there once and it was the best. All their salads and sandwiches are really fresh. It is a little more expensive that at the grocery store, but the quality is above par.

                    1. The chicken salad in the premade food section is very tasty and affordable at the UWS location.

                      1. I only use Citarella on the UWS, but I use Fairway both on the UWS (next door to Citarella) and in Harlem.

                        Although I buy meat in both places, I think Citarella's edges the meat at Fairway. Agree with all the above on fish. I make my selection by eye, and there's plenty to avoid at all times.

                        Citarell's chicken is by far the better of the two. After that, it's no contest. Fairway is the best grocery in town.

                        - Sean

                        1. Citarella has good quality food and people are willing to pay for it. You can find just about anything you'll find there elsewhere for a better price. Citarella is as a rule overpriced. But it's all there and so are the people willing to do one stop shopping.

                          1. i hope that the neighborhood can sustain the citarella in harlem, but with their prices, i'm not sure that they will. it's always empty when i'm there. i have a love-hate relationship with fairway--i grudgingly acknowlege that they have everything i want, but it's such an insane overwhelming zoo. the staff at citarella is incredibly exuberant and helpful (even when they don't have any idea what they're doing). so i really hope the harlem citarella sticks around.

                            i really like their produce. it's certainly expensive, but in contrast to whole foods, where the prices are similar, if not higher, i've found that the expensive fruit at citarella tends to be ripe and luscious.

                            i got a 8 oz tub of french gris sea salt with herb de provence for $4.99 ages ago. i use it often, and love the stuff, and have barely made a dent in it.

                            i think nuts/dried fruit, cheeses are comparably priced to what you'll find at fairway. though, actually, maybe it's a dollar or two more per pound