Friday, May 22, 2009

Bartolomeo's v. Jerry's Gourmet

My wife and me drove to Englewood today for a late breakfast at Bartolomeo's, the first serious challenger to the dominance of Jerry's Gourmet for Italian prepared food and groceries. What we found is a much smaller place with the quality but not the selection Jerry's has become known for.

Bartolomeo's is in an impressive new brick building at North Dean Street and West Demarest Avenue, less than a mile from Jerry's warehouse on South Dean in the shadow of an elevated section of Route 4. The former lags in the variety of cheeses and prepared foods, and doesn't sell any wine, but bakes pizza on the premises. Bartolomeo's also doesn't offer complete meals to go. Jerry's restaurant-quality meals, at $6.99, are among the best takeout values in North Jersey.

At Bartolomeo's, I struck up a conversation with an elderly Italian gentleman who said he was the owner. He said he had a successful business -- a store and adjacent pizzeria -- for more than a decade on Grand Avenue in Palisades Park, but that in recent years his revenues declined because the increasing number of Korean residents didn't eat a lot of Italian food.

The Englewood building has a vacant second floor, which is for rent. The man scoffed at my suggestion he open a pasta restaurant that serves a great bowl of spaghetti and meatballs or a Neapolitan pizza joint. Mentioning the wealthy residents of Englewood, Tenafly and nearby towns, he insisted only a high-end place that charged $200 a couple would be suitable for the space.

For our late breakfast, I had eggs, potatoes and peppers and my wife chose sausage, onions and peppers, both sold by the pound, $7.99 and $6.99, respectively. The hero roll we split was another 75 cents. You can get a cup of espresso at Bartolomeo's, and the store stocks a large selection of refrigerated and dry imported pasta, including dry pasta in crockery ($14.99).

And Bartolomeo's isn't nearly as generous with samples. I tried a couple of small, but delicious slivers of foccacia with olive and tomato there, in contrast to the half-dozen cheeses and salami I tasted the day before at Jerry's.

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