The soft hum of instrumental music plays throughout the store painted with a tranquil image of an authentic Italian deli. Beyond the store colored in green, red and white, Vince’s Gourmet Imports, 440 S. Main St., North Syracuse (452-1000), brings a taste of Italy to the northern suburbs. Since opening more than six years ago, Vince’s has become a popular, Italian-focused grocer selling fresh and frozen meals, as well as kitchen merchandise such as potholders, towels and dishes.
A recent kitchen expansion has led to a number of changes that are transforming the store into a happening lunch spot. For starters, the space has been opened up so customers can watch as their meals are prepared for them. “Everyone can see what we’re doing,” says owner Sam Mondello, “from cutting the cheeses to making homemade pasta, to cooking chicken parmesan today, or Utica greens, which have become pretty big here.”
The popular Italian-style deli located in the back of the store now offers a variety of hot items and prepared soups and biscottis. In addition to meats, cheeses and olives, Vince’s now offers homemade roast beef and porchetta, a boneless Italian pork roast.
The new Italian beef sandwich is gaining quite a large fan base, according to Mondello. While the sandwich is extremely popular in Chicago, Mondello is trying to make North Syracuse’s version No. 2. Using homemade roast beef, the sandwich is topped off with giardiniera, an Italian vegetable mix, and a nice sharp provolone cheese, all served on a DiLauro’s Bakery Italian roll.
With more hot items on their menu, Mondello knew that Vince’s would have to accommodate the growing dine-in crowd. Originally, there were only a couple tables inside. They’ve now added three more tables for a total of 20 indoor seats, as well as an outdoor picnic table on the side of the store.
“Lunch gets pretty hectic sometimes but we also have a few outside tables,” Mondello says. “I might need to add more eventually.”
As suggested by customers, Vince’s has brought in a small olive bar and a produce section allowing for fresh peppers and romaine. “It’s not large produce but it’s a nice selection and we try to keep the prices very fair for that,” says Mondello. A generous head of homegrown-style romaine costs only $1.49. In the next month, customers can expect more fresh produce.
But Vince’s frozen offerings, sold from a bank of freezers on the southern side of the store, aren’t so shabby, either. The entrees are also available online at vincesgourmet.com, then shipped via UPS across the country so people can taste what they’re missing. The site also offers users the option to select and purchase meals online to be picked up at a predetermined time. Coupons are available for online purchases; by spending more than $50 online, customers can use a coupon code to save $5.
Most recently, Mondello has begun to embrace social media as a business tool for the store. “Facebook has been an intricate part of growing our local presence,” Mondello says. “We put specials up there, we’ll do different offers, and other information.” As an example, recently, two earthquakes struck in regions of Italy that are known for their parmesan reggiano. On their Facebook page, Vince’s included information about a few factories that were destroyed as a result. The page also includes recipes and other pieces of information that Mondello hopes will be useful to customers.
The biggest draw to the store is still the deli. Mondello researches different regions in Italy and popular foods from those areas, using the information as a basis for their submarine sandwiches. Mondello talks specifically about one of the subs, called the Modena. “It’s got parmesan reggiano on it, salami-prosciutto mix, roasted red peppers that we make here, and then a balsamic glaze. So, each of the different regional subs have something from that region.”
Gluten-free products have also become a major draw in the store and on the website, as more people are being diagnosed with Celiac disease or suffer reactions to wheat-based products. “We’ve had a lot of requests for gluten-free,” Mondello notes. “Being Italian we’ve tried to keep everything Italian that we bring in. We have corn pastas, rice pastas, all Italian made, they’re all gluten-free.”
Ninety percent of the products in the store are imported directly from Italy, according to Mondello. Vince’s offers a selection of products ranging from pasta, sauces, Italian meats and cheeses, olive oils and vinegars, and fine chocolates.
Mondello is dedicated to serving locals, but is also delighted to welcome visitors from out of town. “I have a bunch of regular customers that come in once every couple of weeks or once every month and they make a special trip to come here from Binghamton and Watertown, which is always nice,” he says.
Vince’s Gourmet Imports is open Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
I scream, you scream, we all scream... for pizza? That’s right. Friendly’s has recently released an ice cream pizza as the perfect blend of two American favorites. A chewy brownie crust topped with vanilla ice cream, loaded with fudge, chocolate chips and colorful sprinkles makes this pizza best served cold. Friendly’s Ice Cream Pizza is the perfect dessert for summer parties and events. Served out of a round dish in pizza shaped slices, the treat appeals to ice cream lovers of all ages, for the price of $9.99.
You will find it at the following area stores: 3701 James St., 463-6781; 3275 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt, 446-8332; 5407 W. Genesee St., Camillus, 487-2468; 7560 Oswego Road (Route 57), Liverpool, 622-3730; 501 E. Genesee St., Fayetteville, 637-9518; and 4081 Route 31, Clay (in front of Target), 652-3786.
Ever feel like pre-planned trips never play out exactly as you’d like them to? Well, your next visit to the Finger Lakes should be a bit better, with Tour the Finger Lakes, a newly released app that grants users the opportunity to customize their visits and create more than 24 guided tours.
Ithaca-based restaurateur and cookbook author Michael Turback has teamed up with CulinartMedia in an effort to bring this traveling convenience to mobile technology. The Finger Lakes has remained a traveling hot spot over the years. The area is home to several scenic and historic points of interest, not to mention a vast array of wineries and restaurants.
With the option of customized visits, travelers can browse through 150 sites on their mobile device. Each of the sites includes colored photographs, descriptions and maps on how to get there. Tour the Finger Lakes is available for purchase in the App Store in the Travel Category and is compatible with the iPhone 3 and 4 for $1.99 and with the iPad 1, 2 and 3 for $3.99.
Downtown Syracuse just got better. Imagine it’s a sweltering 90-degree afternoon, you’re at work and you are craving ice cream. Where do you go? Gannon’s. A perennial Best of Syracuse winner, Gannon’s ice cream is now available at Hanover Square and Columbus Circle. Push carts will hold court weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For $4, prepackaged containers of their top flavors like Milky Way and Peanut Butter Perfection will be available as well as seasonal favorites such as Strawberries & Cream, made with fresh berries from Navarino Orchards. You can also indulge in treats like ice cream sandwiches and chipwiches. If you would like your favorite Gannon’s flavor available, they are open to suggestion.
Gannon’s has a fascinating history. In 1982, siblings John and Eileen Gannon started a soft-serve ice cream stand in the parking lot outside of their family’s grocery store in the Valley. “It was just a fun summer job,” remembers Eileen. That was until she fell in love with the world of ice cream. In 1996, the siblings took over the actual store and began producing several dozen flavors of ice cream; Gannon’s Isle, 1525 Valley Drive, was born. In 2000, Gannon’s started a satellite location in Onondaga Hill, taking over an ice cream stand from retirees at 4800 McDonald Road.
Today, Gannon’s produces more than 200 flavors out of the Valley location and, unlike most ice cream stands, Gannon’s season is much longer than Memorial Day to Labor Day; they are open from March to Thanksgiving. In fact, Gannon’s is so popular that ice cream entrepreneurs across the country turn to Eileen and John for their expertise.
In addition to being able to enjoy Gannon’s downtown this summer, you can also tantalize your taste buds with Gannon’s at local events like Shakespeare in the Park at Thornden Park (June 22, 23, 24, 29, 30) or at Pops in the Park at Onondaga Park (Tuesdays evenings in July).
For more information, call 468-8647 or visit Gannon’s online at gannonsicecream.com.
Marshall Street’s Insomnia Cookies has taken up a new home for the summer. Parked across from their original location, on the area locals call “the beach,” is the hot spot’s cookie delivery and vendor truck. You can purchase cookies there daily from 11 a.m. to midnight.
“We know from experience that the cookie trucks are a hit,” says Seth Berkowitz, CEO. “After deciding to relocate the store, but wanting to continue operating throughout the summer, we thought there was no better solution than to introduce a cookie truck to Marshall Street.”
Not making this their permanent location, Insomnia Cookies will be expected to relocate and open a new store later in the summer. Although a move is in the works, public relations brass are being coy. “The new store will be much larger and have more seating to better serve the students and the Syracuse community,” says Renee Sarnecky, marketing manager for Serve U Brands. “We will announce the new location in the upcoming months, an actual opening date has yet to be determined.”
Insomnia Cookies is a favorite among Syracuse University students; it delivers cookies at late hours, offering cookies in a variety of flavors, including chocolate chunk, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle and more. “Even though it’s a temporary location, we are still looking to enhance the cookie truck experience by offering nighttime lights, music and tables/seating,” Sarnecky adds.
For more information or to order call (877) 63-COOKIE or visit them online at insomniacookies.com.