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Recent trip to Di Palo's

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I spent my lunch hour at Di Palo Fine Foods on 200 Grand Street. So even though I went during the week, and the line appeared short, I ended up spending an hour there! Granted, a fair amount of that was trying different things, but a fair amount was waiting. My guess is that I waited half an hour for them to help just 2 people. But the waiting gives you a chance to listen to what other people are ordering and sometimes get a taste of what they are trying. They seem to be discounting the pannetone since it is post-Christmas (though the stuff lasts for months). I've never tried the good stuff (one customer told me to make sure butter is one of the ingredients) and it was $9. Tried some of their italian ham with rosemary--this was so delicious, I bought a bunch. They also just got a shipment of the newest olive oils, which they will let you taste. Not expensive either--mine was $23 for maybe 750ml. Bought other assorted cheeses and meats (incl. their mozzerella balls). Luckily for my wallet I managed to avoid the grocery items, it all looked so delicious but pricey, like the $14 slitti version of nutella (chocolate dreams are made of these).

So next time I brave the lines, what else should I get? Also, any better times to go? Was it that I went at Friday or that it was lunch time?

BTW after trying all their samples, I picked up a pound of cherries in chinatown and that was enough for lunch!

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  1. I try to go first thing on Saturday morning - w/n half an hour of their opening. The purpose of my trip is usually to buy Bottarga - hard to find in NYC (for me at least) and about 1/5th the price of D&D's. I also end up picking up random things - a number of which are still sitting in my pantry since they were of the "Oh, I've never seen this before? Wonder what/how it is? I'll get some and try it.".

    2 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      What do you use the bottarga for?

      1. re: Produce Addict

        With pasta - some links - there's quite a bit on Home Cooking about it (more than these two threads):

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/27975...

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/28295...

    2. I never seem to have less than a 20 minute wait no matter when I visit.

      Funny thing is Di Palo's is probably one of the few stores where I rarely mind the wait and that's even when all I'm buying is a 1/4 lb of Parmiggiano Regiano and a 1/4 lb. of fresh ricotta.

      1 Reply
      1. re: was_bk

        Agreed - I enjoy the wait and allot the nec. time - usually while my husband is driving around since it is difficult to find parking.

      2. I have found bottarga at Buonitalia in Chelsea Market. My favorite visit was about a year ago- it snowed only a few inches, but that usually paralyzes the city. I found (multiple) parking spots within close distance and spent about two hours getting tutorials on different cheeses, olive oils, etc. as there was almost no one in the store. Probably won't happen again, at least for me.

        5 Replies
        1. re: markabauman

          Do you remember off hand how much it was at Chelsea Market?

          I love taking advantage of snow in the city!

          1. re: MMRuth

            I don't remember specifically how much it was. I also found it at Grace's Market on the upper East side. Also depends on whether it's mullet or tuna roe. Usually shave or grate it over pasta. Don't need much, so a little goes a long way. Is expensive-wish I could be more specific. There is no waste.

            1. re: markabauman

              Thanks for the feedback - at Di Palo's, it's about $80 a pound - the vacuumed packed mullet roe usually comes in at about 1/4 pound or so. At D&D it was $125 for the *exact* same package. Agree that it goes a long way.

              1. re: MMRuth

                Update - was just at Di Palo's (when they opened at 9am - wonderful - found parking, no line to speak of) and the grey mullet bottarga is now $89 a pound, the tuna is $99 a pound. Bought four packets of the former and they ranged in price from about $22 to $28. Got the gorgonzola dulce for the first time and, as always, the parmesan was delicious.

            2. re: MMRuth

              MMRuth, I was at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market today, where I had my first introduction to bottarga. (Well, second. This board is my first). It looked like the stuff here: http://www.famigliagastaldello.it/a_1... (sorry, website's in italian, and i have no idea what it says, but i'm thankful for google images nonetheless). They were selling it for $95/lb.

              They also had jars of bottarga for 6.95 and 9.95 (depending on size).

          2. For a long time, I didn't understand the appeal of DiPalo's, largely because I couldn't stand the wait in such close quarters. But on my last trip, I was stuck by how lovely and gracious the staff is. They take their time letting you taste things, explaining where everything comes from, and slicing meats with incredible care. They operate on a leisurely pace, and don't rush you, despite the line (and more of a line develops as a consequence).

            I love the Arthur Avenue area in the Bronx, stop there regularly, and would argue that some products are better there (ahem, on the Outer Boroughs board, of course). But the level of service at DiPalo's is orders of magnitude better than my Arthur Ave faves.

            1. Lou's a great guy and his brother Sal as well. And that in itself is both great and not so great. Great, for obvious reasons, not so great because the time he spends explaining the origin of the (insert product) and what the weather was like the day he visited (insert producer/farmer) in (insert Italian city), you've been there 45 minutes and have little to show for it.

              Personally, I've learned to enjoy the hour+ I spend waiting for delicious food. It makes a city dweller "stop", something I think most of us forget to do once in awhile.

              Anyway, what I get there (just about every time):

              * Crucola - deliciously addictive cheese, if they don't have it in, I get its sister cheese (I forget the name) made by the same guy
              * Gorgonzola Dolce - the creamiest blue you've ever had
              * Fresh Ricotta - yum. I immediately go home and have a spoonful with a little bit of really good honey. Then make a huge tray of baked ziti with it...saving some for snacking and using for pasta.
              * Fresh mozzarella - for ziti.
              * Marinara sauce - I love theirs
              * Usually a meat - prosciutto, speck and/or soppressata
              * I skip the bread there, not so good.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dkstar1

                about that Gorgonzola Dolce.....

                During one wait in line a customer at the counter ordered some and a discussion ensued about the uses for it and how to make a quick pasta sauce. I've never been a big fan of Gorgonzola but ever since then I can't get stop thinking about it.

                Next time I shop there, I think it's time I give it a try.

              2. I was there just yesterday morning and spent my usual hour in the waiting and being waited upon. Like the other posters I never mind because the wait is generally entertaining, informative, and cordial. As far as what to purchase - be alert as to what cheeses have arrived recently and certainly, I never leave without speck (smoked prosciutto).

                1. IMO Dipalos is overrated, overpriced. Try Alleva Dairy 2 blocks away...1/2 the price twice the quality.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: DoctortedNYC

                    Do you think that Alleva has the same variety of products though? I've been in a couple of times and my sense is that it doesn't, but I could be wrong. And, Alleva may be cheaper - I have no idea - but is it really half the price of Di Palo? Prosciutto di Parma for $10 a pound? Parmigiano Reggiano for $6 a pound? I'll certainly check it out again the next time I'm down there.

                    1. re: DoctortedNYC

                      Oh please. It's one thing to like, or even prefer Alleva, but your claims of it being 1/2 the price and of better quality are false.

                      1. re: dkstar1

                        And don't forget the service you get there. I think Di Palo's is one of our great bargains.

                        1. re: jasmurph

                          Alleva also doesn't have 1/4 of the varieties of cheese that Di Palo does. There's no comparison.

                    2. The guys behind the counter at Alleva at not nice, not helpful, and generally don't give a @#$% about the customer.

                      1. I knew that speaking negatively against DiPalo's would be equivalent to heresy. I will say this. Ive bought from DiPalo's several times and i can say i never was very happy. What they claim is imported cheese or salami tastes very much domestic and inferior to what you get at Garden of Eden or Gourmet Garage. Their olives are mushy. Service? For the prices they get and they quality i dont get i would give great service too. Dipalos is taking advantage of its past reputation.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: DoctortedNYC

                          I don't think it's heresy to criticize Di Palo - I'm certainly here to learn more about great places to get good quality food - and if it's cheaper than where I'm shopping now - all the better. So, I'm still curious about what you said about the prices at Alleva - can I get Parmigiano Reggiano there for $6? Or are there other products that are cheaper there that I should keep an eye out for? Trust me, one of the reasons I head down to Di Palo is that it is often significantly cheaper than places on the UES, so if I can get even a better deal at Alleva, I'll certainly check it out next time I'm down there - would be helpful to know which products you particularly like there.

                          From what I can tell from seeing labels etc. on the food that I buy at Di Palo - easy to see b/c they always cut customers a taste before you make up your mind - I've always seen the appropriate label etc. on the food products, which they then proceed to cut in front of me.

                          Never been to Garden of Eden and I find Gourmet Garage *seriously* over rated - was psyched at first when the one opened at 96th & Park, but after a number of disappointing experiences there I don't go back.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Get thee to Arthur Ave in the Bronx! Parmigiano reggiano for $8/lb at Teitel Bros (without DiPalo's-level service, no question).

                            This isn't the right board to be talking about the Bronx, so I'll leave it at that, but there's a lot of great stuff up there. If you want to start an outer boroughs thread, I'd be happy to share my favorites. Or just search the boards; I learned everything I know about the great Arthur Ave shops from CH recommendations.

                            These are great old threads:
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
                            These have served me incredibly well, and I'm super thankful to djk and Cheese Boy for showing me the way...oh, that fresh ricotta. The stuff at DiPalo's, at Joe's Dairy, at every single other place I've gone, doesn't remotely compare.

                        2. I feel compelled to defend the guys at Alleva. I have been dealing with them for about 15 years, maybe 20, and I must say that they are nothing but nice, especially the owner. I used to deal with his father who has since retired, and he was always nice to me. And I am not Italian! Or look Italian.

                          1. i only have been treated rudley at Alleva. No 'thank you' or 'your welcome', bored expressions, eyes roll at questions. This is not only on one occasion, but every. i have thick skin so i just shrug it off and go back there for the proscuitto balls because i like them. No one says i have to like the people who are behind counter to shop there. now that i just moved to LA, i would kill for the silent treatment from those guys for 1 proscuitto ball!

                            1. I often find myself in Alleva when I am in a rush and can't wait at Di Palos. I usually just get a few things at the cheese counter in the back. If you are looking primarily for cheese, it is a great backup. The older guy at the cheese counter almost never smiles and will never win any awards for his personality, but I have never seen him rude. Prices are slightly less at Alleva but not dramatically. Alleva for cheese and the ravioli place next door, Piemonte, are great alternatives if the line is too long at Di Palos

                              1. If im dining at a fine restaurant, of course i want good service..when i shop too i want tolerate rude..however i have never been treated rudely at Alleva...IMHO the quality of Dipalos has fallen and i no longer believe it justifies the wait...There are just too many great gourmet shops in NYC with equal or better products...Also a good percentage of people waiting on line are tourists...

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: DoctortedNYC

                                  Could you please be more specific?

                                  Which products are no longer as good? If it's the imported products, that suggests either the quality of the producers' products has dropped, Di Palo is using different suppliers, or they are not treating their products well. Option 3 is not the case; I can't speak to option 1 or 2. If it's their house cheeses that have dropped in quality, then I question your taste and so do lots of restaurants. So, is it the sausages? My guess is that most people don't go there for sausages.

                                  Could you also name 3 or 4 of these other great gourmet shops? I think there are other stores nearly as good (Despana, Kalustyan), but I'm not sure what's better. I really would like to know. I hope you're not including Gourmet Garage and Garden of Eden in that group. Both are really overpriced and seem to cater to people who want prepared food.

                                  Finally, what's the significance of Di Palo having tourists as customers?

                                  1. re: DoctortedNYC

                                    If you are consistently disappointed with DiPalo's, why do you continue to go there? Seems counterintuitive.

                                    Who cares if the people waiting on line are tourists?

                                    And Chowhound team, why did you delete my last post?

                                  2. jasmurp:

                                    Fair question: Here's what i bought recently:

                                    Genoa Salami: Average, nothing special. Same quality as you might get at Whole Foods or Food Emporium.

                                    Sopresetta: Better than average.

                                    Prosciutto: Average

                                    Sharp Provolone: Mealy, definitely not sharp...Imported? I have my doubts

                                    Olives: Mushy tasteless...went into the garbage.

                                    Cheese: Murrays, Artisanal,Fairway...much better than Dipalos.

                                    Salami etc: Dean and Deluca, Agata Valentina

                                    Dipalo isnt much cheaper than any of the above.

                                    1. dkstar1:

                                      I dont go there anymore.

                                      I just live in the neighbord and pass by there alot.

                                      1. Answering my own post, another person on chowhound recommended getting the crucolo, so I plan to try that next time.

                                        1. Not sure if this was mentioned: DiPalo was the subject of a long feature story in Gourmet this month. Because of this, the crowds are greater than ever. The article sung the praises of crucolo, and the Alto Adige in general, so many folks are trying this for the first time. They told me they expect this crush to die down slightly in the weeks to come. Meanwhile, it is a good article by Sean Wilsey, who was in the store to say hello (more time away from slicing) the last time I was there.