When fifteen months ago Brooklyn chef Dale Talde, a former Top Chef contestant, and Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, stars of HGTV’s Kitchen Cousins, announced their plans to transform the former Jersey City police headquarters into Carrino Provisions (8 Erie Street, Jersey City; 551-222-6163), there was no Italian espresso bar next door, no pasta factory two blocks away. But for locals who, in recent years, have been limited in stocking up on storm provisions at Duane Reade and La Conga, one-stop shopping downtown for the foods you not only need but actually want couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The reason we landed on Italian, it’s part of my heritage,” partner David Massoni told us. “But it’s also the one cuisine in America most of us know how to cook. It’s a simple cuisine, about the purity of ingredients and not messing with them too much.”
Those ingredients are on display everywhere. Between the Illy cafe and back-room osteria, deli cases run the length of the market, their contents progressing like a meal. Taleggio and prosciutto give way to olives and mushrooms in vinegar. Past a half-dozen fresh pastas lies a butcher case packed with Berkshire pork and Allen Brothers beef.
“We were nervous: If we build it, will they come?” Massoni told us opening day, as well-wishing neighborhood restaurateurs dropped off congratulatory bottles, proving his next statement. “What’s been really nice, Porta beat us in the opening game, and it was great to see when they opened that they were absolutely jam-packed. None of the other restaurants were empty because of it.”
The neighborhood restaurant scene has proven so popular that parking is already an issue, even before next-door Talde opens, so the restaurant will be introducing valet service. The nearest garage is right inside; however, it leads to an interior courtyard that, come summer, will open for movie screenings.
The only plan not in the works is retail liquor sales. But behind the neon osteria sign lies the dining room and bar — a TV is forthcoming — where $12 drinks include favorite carryovers from Talde, like the Smoked BBQ Negroni and a fizzy, citrus-laced Jersey City Iced Tea, an amaro with rye, prosecco, and lime poured over ice cubes in a wine glass.
The back room opens at noon, and by day offers a menu that showcases the market’s offering more than the chef’s skills. A large meat and cheese plate’s a bargain at $18 for five picks, and a charred Tuscan kale salad thoroughly coated in black garlic egginess and studded with pumpernickel croutons is Jersey City’s most flavorful caesar aberration.
Hot food in the early hours is limited to panini, served with tender house-baked chips and a dipping sauce. The heartiest and most complex is the vegetarian mushroom parm, loaded with pickled hot peppers and diminished ony by the thin side of marinara. The most addictive dip is the fra diavolo butter paired with a sweet and meaty $17 lobster and melted mozzarella sandwich that, even searing, goes down as fast as a summertime roll. Nighttime, meanwhile, is all about the meat. Already the standout pasta is the $22 campanelli coated in braised octopus puttanesca and roasted beef fat. There’s also a $59 twenty-ounce ribeye for two, with smoked beef butter, that makes the most of the market’s butcher shop.
If you’re hungry for more after the check drops, the market stays open daily until 10 p.m. And since not every dessert up front was available on the osteria menu, we took to go the last batch of peanut butter tiramisu. Back at home, dessert evoked an ethereal version of Drake’s Funny Bones, but something about carrying it out struck a nerve: Carrino Provisions packs groceries in I Love NY shopping bags. We love it too, but this is Jersey City!
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Follow Adam Robb on Twitter, @lifevicarious.