Remember last year, when all those restaurants were spawning affiliated gourmet markets? Well, while the Smoke Joint has converted its little piggy (market) into a bar, and Market Table has abandoned the grocery gambit altogether, the trend continues apace, with a new wave of hybrid ventures where dining room meets grocery shelf. Eat in, take out, and pick up a quart of milk (Hudson Valley, organic) on the way out.
Long Island City-zens know Sage American Kitchen as the weekday canteen for Silvercup Studios and source of some of the best Hostess-cupcake knockoffs around. Wanting to expand and facing the usual lease headaches, owner Leslie Nilsson decided to relocate and rebrand, and the result, now situated at Court Square opposite the Citicorp Building, is Sage General Store. As the name implies, there is ample wainscoting, antiques, and shelf space occupied by locavore bait like butter and yogurt from Evans Farmhouse Creamery, ricotta from Salvatore Bklyn, and sea-salt caramels from Brooklyn’s NuNu Chocolates. Koeze’s cult Cream-Nut peanut butter from Michigan is displayed ever so quaintly alongside Beth’s Farm Kitchen jams in what used to be Charlotte’s armoire on Sex and the City. But despite the mercantile trappings, Sage’s emphasis remains on elevated American comfort food, from macaroni and cheese to free-range rotisserie chicken, now available to stay or to go during new weekend and, starting soon, evening hours. 24-20 Jackson Ave., nr. Court Sq., Long Island City; 718-361-0707
If Sage’s aesthetic is Country, then Manducatis Rustica’s is the Old Country. In shockingly spacious premises (by Manhattan standards, at any rate), this outgrowth of Long Island City’s venerable Manducatis restaurant is the kind of lace-curtained place where Italian is spoken, espresso is drunk standing up, and red wine is consumed out of gallon jugs — or at least it was on the afternoon we visited. Owner Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, daughter of Vincent and Ida Cerbone and sister of the ever-hospitable Anthony, oversees an evolving menu of daily specials like lasagne, hefty Italian sandwiches, and a roster of individual pizzas that emerge tender-crusted from the wood-burning oven. “I’m feeling out what the community needs and wants,” says Cerbone-Teoli, whose housemade gelato, cookies, and cornetti make a very impressive start. Attention to detail is paramount: “I can’t talk,” she said one recent morning. “I’ve got ten people here, and they only like the espresso the way I make it.” Although most of the square footage is dedicated to seating — café style in the main room, white-tablecloth banquet space next door, both equipped with fireplaces — a small retail section has been carved out for Manducatis’ proprietary tomato sauce and olive oil, bread from an Astoria bakery, plus Sicilian imports like Siracusan “00” flour and sea salt from Trapani. They should come in handy during the Monday-night cooking classes Cerbone-Teoli co-hosts with local food writer Faye Hess. 46-31/46-33/46-35 Vernon Blvd., nr. 46th Rd., Long Island City; 718-937-1312
Italian-food fans will also gravitate to Tutto Sfoglia, the long-awaited negozio d’alimentari Ron Suhanosky and his wife, Colleen, hope to open next week (finally!) adjacent to their popular Carnegie Hill restaurant. Those pasta-snob favorites, Latini and Setaro brands, will be displayed alongside the couple’s own fresh pastas and sauces, prepared foods, Italian cured meats and cheeses, and Colleen’s house-baked breads and cookies. But don’t look for as extensive a selection as the owners offer at their Nantucket store. Because it’s not licensed to sell wine along with the food, to make ends meet the Manhattan retail operation sacrifices most of its space to overflow seating for Sfoglia. In the gourmet-market-restaurant world, flexibility is key. 135 E. 92nd St., nr. Lexington Ave.; 212-831-1402