Gusto, a family-owned Italian eatery on Alexander Street (Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)
By SALLY PARKER
Sometimes the love of good food makes you do crazy things, like drive all over town to find that one gourmet ingredient. Explore understands. In Rochester you'll find lots of ways to feed your passion, from ethnic food markets to cozy bistros. In the process, you'll get to know this city a little better.
Local restaurants are meeting a growing demand for fresh and local ingredients. Eating seasonal food may be trendy, but it's as old as the chore of scavenging for berries. Savvy chefs plan menus based on what's coming out of the ground now; the result is flavor that can't be matched at any other time of year.
Restaurant 2Vine, an upscale casual eatery and sprawling bar in the East End, prepares seafood flown in from the coast and vegetables and herbs from area farms. Lento in Village Gate sprinkles an ever-changing menu with ingredients grown and produced nearby, like Lively Run feta and lamb from Aberdeen Hill Farm. Around the corner on Anderson Avenue, in a converted factory space, Good Luck brings a big-city vibe and unusual dishes. Try the whole-grilled trout with root vegetable-pancetta hash. House-smoked tofu is the signature ingredient at the Owl House on Marshall Street. Max of Eastman Place, a fine-dining anchor of the East End, partners with local farmers to prepare simple and elegant dishes.
For a thriftier way to experience Rochester's foodie scene, a visit to a farmers market is a must. Virtually every town and city neighborhood has one each week from May to October (plus a few during the winter). Growers from nearby and the Finger Lakes region bring fruits and vegetables (often picked just hours before), cheese and dairy products, eggs, honey, hormone-free meats, pasta, bread and pastries. All the vendors are local, family operations, so the money you spend cycles back into the area's economy.
The largest open-air market is the Rochester Public Market. If you want to soak up the flavor of Rochester, this is the place. Go on a Saturday to experience the happy mayhem of a true melting pot; customers come from city, town and country. Restaurant chefs swear by it, stopping by to stock up on organic and locally grown ingredients. You'll also find specialty food purveyors and places for breakfast, lunch and coffee. The market is so popular that fans voted it America's Favorite Farmers Market in 2010. Founded in 1827, it's also one of the oldest in the country. You'll find more than fruit and vegetables; a fair number of vendors sell dry goods. And not every produce hawker is a grower, so be sure to ask who grew their veggies.
For a culinary immersion experience, visit one of the area's specialty food markets. Rochester's rich German heritage lives on in Ralf's European Meats and Delicatessen on Dewey Avenue, Swan Market on Parsells Avenue and Hartmann's Old World Sausage in Canandaigua. Asian food markets, such as Lee's Oriental Foods at the Genesee Regional Market, have multiplied in suburban Henrietta and in the city. And you'll find spices and chutney at India House Store on South Clinton Avenue.
An Italian-American community that dates to the mid-1800s supports shops that specialize in cuisine from Italy, such as Calabresella Importers in Gates, Lombardi's Gourmet Imports and Specialties in Fairport and Palermo's Meat and Food Market in Irondequoit. Savoia Pastry Shoppe on Clifford Avenue and Gruttadauria Bakery on West Ridge Road have made dreamy confections since the early 1900s.
© Rochester Business Journal