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where to find real ricotta and fresh bread?


A few months ago, I moved from the "Old World" to the Boston area. (My wife is American). We are moving closer to Boston (Middlesex) next week.

Over the past months I've tried many "American" food products. I've certainly enjoyed the grilled steaks, fresh corn and seafood meals, but beyond that it hasn't been a great "food" experience unfortunately.

I will not go into all that, but just focus on two items, cheese and bread.

I've bought ricotta in the supermarket, which turned out to be a completely different product than what I know as ricotta. Why do they label it ricotta if it's not ricotta? It doesn't even come close to ricotta. Same goes for mascarpone (another disaster) and many other "italian" products. Now that I went through that learning phase, I am left with one question: Where can I get real ricotta, mascarpone and so on (in the Boston area)?

I also have a hard time finding good fresh bread. Most breads are almost inedible and/or not fresh. It surprised me that customers seem to be ok with buying old bread! Many stores have "fresh" breads on the shelves that are over a day old! So, where to get good fresh "Old World" style breads in the Lexington area?

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  1. Have you been to Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge? Excellent cheese store. I also like that they carry C&R breads. You might want to do a taste test between C&R, Iggy's, Hi-Rise, Clear Flour and Nashoba Brook to find your particular style of bread choice.

    Have you been to Salumeria Italiana? Lots of "Old World" imports.

    1. Welcome! We buy very fresh bread at Wilson Farms, 10 Pleasant St., Lexington. They also have fresh cheeses. But really, you must go to the North End (Boston). There you will find Purity Cheese Co. on Endicott St. and J. Pace on Cross St. There are also several very good Italian bakeries on Hanover St. Just walking around there you will see many salumeria - it's truly an experience.

      1. If you are in Lexington, basically, right next door is Waltham.... a wealth of little ethnic cubbyholes. My Sister-in-Law is from Italy and Finding ricotta was a big challenge. We discovered Salem Food Store at 468 Moody St, Waltham - 781-893-9874,,,BINGO!
        Great fresh and creamy smooth... not at all like the supermarket garbage. THey also carry a large selection of imported meats and other products. Also on Main Street in Waltham is Domenics which has a legendary following on this forum for their sandwiches and homemade breads. To me, their bread is the real deal, although I don't believe they make them any larger than "sandwich" size (10 inches maybe)... I buy a 1/2 dozen or more a week and its my only bread. Not quite a hard crust, but airy, ethereal, with a great chew and taste. In the North End, Parziales' is the oldest bread bakery... and Bova's bakery is so, so for pastry, but I found their breads decent.
        But I recommend for you to go to Salem Food Store and Go to Domenics for some of their breads and see what you think. As a bonus, Domenics eggplant is the closest thing I've had to my Italian family members..... its great. The litmus test in our family is if my sister-in-laws mother will eat it ... its got the approval of the Italian Saints. This woman won't eat anythng that's not her cooking. Uh, I almost forgot, there is a place in Lexington called Pasta Etc. Etc. owned by some Italian Families with great pizza and imported products as well. Good luck, there are some options in your area !

        1. purity cheese in the north end makes fresh ricotta, by hand, daily. they also make mozzarella and have an excellent selection of imported italian cheeses.

          grocery store ricotta is a crime against humanity.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            I've only had Purity ricotta once. In all fairness, it was right before Easter a few years ago (busy time) - but it was so bad I never returned. The grocery store version (whole milk, of course, always) was better. In fact, I'd say that the whole milk ricotta they sold me was at least part skim.

            Just spoke to a clerk at J. Pace's (North End store) a week ago - he told me that the original owner "sold out, about 1999." He wouldn't infer that the store wasn't as good as before, but my bad experience has kept me away.

            I realize that's going back a bit (not in North End speak, tho), but I wondered whether they got their reputation from that original owner.

            By the way - it is extremely easy to make ricotta at home, if you like to do that sort of stuff. Lots of directions on the internet. I did this one Christmas, when I ran out of ricotta & the closest stores were closed.

          2. I hate to suggest places I've not been to personally, but two that might be up your alley:

            Concord Cheese Shop - I gather they make their own homemade mozzarella, so it wouldn't surprise me if they did ricotta as well. I'd also be very surprised if the bread they sold wasn't truly fresh.

            La Riviera - this gourmet shop in Lexington bakes all their own French pastries. While I don't see anything on the website alluding to plain French bread (although yes to brioche and croissants), I'd be stunned if their bread weren't at least very fresh.

            If anyone has information on either of these places, please chime in!

            There are a number of Italian specialty shops that sell real fresh ricotta. Two of my favorites are Sessa's in Somerville and Bob's in Medford.

            1. If you come in Route 2, you get the chance to check out Iggy's and Hi-Rise (be prepared for sticker shock), plus Formaggio and don't forget to check out Capone's foods on Mass Ave in Cambridge (at the end of route 2, take route 16 to the next major intersection and turn right).

              In addition to Wilson's, depending on where you are in Lexington, both Doran Farms on East St and Busa on the Arlington line carry bread. At the former I have rarely gotten anything fresh, but Busa seems to have a smaller selection, but more regular deliveries. And don't forget about the farmer's market, which at least has HiRise and Fiore di Nonno. http://www.lexingtonfarmersmarket.org...

              If you wanted to help out other hounds, check out La Riviera. It used to be L'alouette which had excellent croissants and basic daily baked french rounds/baguettes, but I haven't been able to stop in since it has changed hands.

              2 Replies
              1. re: itaunas

                Wow, didn't expect this many replies so fast! Thank you all for this information! It seems I have a lot of exploring and comparing to do!

                1. Also remember Sessa's in Davis Square. They have fresh ricotta and mozzarella along with various cheeses (Formaggio it's not) and a large selection of Italian groceries. Their bread, while fresh, isn't so hot.

                  1. Russo's in Watertown stocks fresh ricotta, and I like their country loaf bread- very crusty.

                    1. I agree with The Russo's Rec.. They carry Lavallees Bread which is dynamite, look them up at www.lavalleesbakery.com. Most of the high end bakeries/restaurants carry the Lavallees line.

                      1. Moving closer to Boaton ( Middlesex). If you are referring to the county, It's pretty bib. Where exactly? You'll get local recs.

                        1. I love Calabro Ricotta, made in Connecticut. Whole Foods sells it in bulk. It's the real deal.

                          For Mascarpone, the one made by Vermont Butter and Cheese Co has a higher butterfat content than even those in the old country, and has bested them in European cheese competitions.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: galleygirl

                            Is this the one that they sell in the generic plastic containers in the "fresh" cheese section?
                            If so, I definatly reccomend it as well.
                            If not, I have had good luck the fresh ricotta from WF. Just be sure to check the experation date and look for the freshes. Sometimes they put the riccota next to the fresh pasta as well.

                            1. re: 2peasinapod

                              Yep, that's the one. You can get the Calabro container if ypu want the whole quart, or however it's packaged...I just love it...

                              1. re: galleygirl

                                Calabro makes one of the best tasting Italian basket cheese I have had locally -- there is another company in RI that I like too, the versions from Gigi's or Purity aren't as good. They make it year round, but its usually stocked only around Easter time. I know Sessa's orders some things from Calabro, but not certain with what frequency or if that is where they get their ricotta (very dry).

                          2. I would echo some of the other responses.....you can't go wrong at Russo's and Wilson's. There are plenty of local bakeries to choose from, all with different styles. During the warmer months, I would also check out the local farmer's markets. Belmont, Lexington and Cambridge are all good. For great fresh mozzarella try Fiore di Nonno.....they sell at most Boston area farmer's markets, as well as Concord Provisions and Formaggio.

                            1. Which part of the new world are you located in?

                              Esprit du Vin in Milton has cheese that rivals the best anywhere, but you would not want to drive based on that knowledge alone.

                              Are you stuck in the Lexington area ( and if so why?)

                              1. It's been a while since a started this thread, but I just wanted to mention that I did find real ricotta from a familiar brand (Polenghi, imported from Italy) at Costco!

                                I've tried several places mentioned in this thread, Russo's is my favorite so far. Great quality and prices!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: dinmir

                                  you might want to try Casa D'Italia in Waltham, on Newton Street, for home-cured salami and sausage and De Pasquale in Watertown for very good italian sausage in a variety of styles. with russos as a base for good greens, cheese and bread, and decent pasta, olives and salamis, you can wander to many of these smaller stores for lovely, local smaller items.