Editors' pick

Italian Gourmet Market

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Editorial Review

By Walter Nicholls
Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The flag of Italy, with its equal sections of green, white and red, is a helpful signpost to the Italian Gourmet Market in Gaithersburg. The owner is Mark Zurelli, who stocks his store with many provisions that are made in his native Brooklyn.

Take the frozen ravioli (cheese, meat, spinach or lobster, $7.99 to $11.99 for a box of 16), for example.

"The water quality is different in Brooklyn. That's why the ravioli is so much better," says Zurelli, who opened his shop two years ago. "The dough has a certain flavor and it's thinner."

In the prepared food case there is a salty but flavorful olive spread ($7.99 per pound) from New York that is a customer favorite. "With my sons, I can't keep it in the house," says Trish Rump of North Potomac, who was stocking up. "It's a great blend of flavors."

Every day Zurelli makes plump balls of mozzarella ($7.99 per pound). Here's a cheese with fans: "I grew up in the restaurant business. I've been to Italy. This is the best fresh mozzarella I've ever had," says shopper Jennifer Ricotta of Kentlands. "The flavor is incredible, and it's so creamy."

We liked the fresh warm Italian wedding soup ($2.99 per cup) that has tiny meat and pasta balls as well as spinach in a light chicken broth.

The gorgeous, tall eggplant Parmesan ($5.99 per pound) and homey meat lasagna ($7.99 per pound) can be heated on the spot. The most popular sub is the True Italian ($6.45) -- ham, provolone cheese and Genoa salami on a soft or hard roll. There is a counter along the front window for dining.