One Saturday this past May, we struck out with our friends, Sharon and Mark, to attend the 2nd Annual Breakfast on the Bridge in Perkasie, run by the Bucks County Covered Bridge Society.
One of the benefits of maintaining our calendar of Food Events in Bucks County is that I find all kinds of great stuff to go to. Case in point. Where else can you enjoy a delicious pancake breakfast (provided by Joseph’s Italian Market in Perkasie), sitting on a historic covered bridge, satisfied in both body and conscience? It was a lot of fun, as well as educational. Make sure to look for it next year.
On our way to Perkasie, we passed Pasqualina’s Italian Market and Deli, in Blooming Glen, and I made a mental note to waylay our little culinary party on the way home. It wasn’t difficult. Sharon, as our intrepid readers may remember from previous posts, doesn’t need her arm twisted to stop at an Italian market.
Pasqualina’s is a gem. From the moment you walk in, it sparkles and beckons, enticing you with sights, smells and tastes. Cheeses, pastas, meats, olive oils and vinegars, homemade sauces and meatballs, Italian and Mediterranean groceries, and fresh hot and cold sandwiches – all in one compact, clean and inviting space.
First let’s get the Blooming Glen thing over with. You’re probably saying to yourself, “Blooming Glen? Huh?” It’s actually not as remote as it sounds to all you folks in Central and Lower Bucks. Go up Route 313, past Dublin, to Route 113, turn left (west) and go two miles. Voila. You’re there. There’s also a number of interesting food places on that stretch of Route 113, including Blooming Glen Catering (Big Bob’s BBQ), Tussock Sedge Farm Beef, Bolton Farm Market and the Blooming Glen CSA Farm.
Patty and Brian Gianfelice opened the market almost four years ago. Patty’s a native of Bucks and the couple raised their family just down the road. The market was Patty’s dream, and she nurtures it like a good Italian mother. (“Pasqualina” is her Italian name.)
“This is like one of my children,” she explains. “My name is on this. It was the name of my grandmother whom I adored, the best cook, the sweetest person. It has a lot of family strings for me.” Patty even has her cell number on her business card so customers can call if they have a question or need help with one of her recipes. Brian, who’s been married to Patty for many years, raising children and grandchildren, has come to appreciate her in a new way. “I’ve learned how incredibly talented my wife is because this is a very difficult thing to do. ”
Pasqualina’s has many delectable things, but let’s start with cheese since it’s my favorite, and their selection is deep and interesting (rivaling Wegmans). The market carries over 90 kinds of cheese – from Italian classics like asiago, parmigiano-reggiano, and mascarpone – to others from all over Europe. My newest favorite is Ravenno, a Dutch cheese with “the nutty, caramel flavor of parmesan yet the sweetness of gouda.” They’ve laid out small tasting stations throughout the store, with freshly cut pieces to try, and informational signs.
“We’ve cut over 8 1/2 tons of cheese,” says Brian, a bit surprised himself, including cracking more than one wheel of parmigiano-reggiano. It’s worth stopping by frequently since they always have something new, and Brian loves sharing and teaching about cheese.
In fact, Brian and Patty can tell you about anything they carry in the store. Their knowledge is first-hand. “Everything we bring in, we taste,” says Patty. “If it doesn’t meet our standards and likes, we don’t bring it in.” It’s one of the Pasqualina’s “P”s listed in their mission statement: We “Promise” to “Provide” the highest quality imported and domestic Italian foods. They often supply recipes, too, which Patty has developed using the ingredients they sell(check at the store, on their Web site or in their monthly newsletter).
“We are constantly changing and bringing new things in,” Patty says. “I don’t want to get stale.” How do they find new products? “Not at trade shows,” she explains, “I can’t stand them. I research online, or a vendor suggests it, or a customer asks – and if it interests me, I get it in to try.” If they like it, they sell it. “We’re our own focus group,” Brian jokes.
They’ve also learned from their customers. “We’d always ask customers, what would you like to see? What would you want?” says Patty. They’ve adapted their inventory to both suit and challenge their customers’ tastes. And when something goes well, they look to expand it.
Olive oil is a good example. They tasted many before settling on a “classic” extra virgin olive oil from Italy’s Apulian region to bottle as the store “brand.” That sold so well, they found a Spanish and Greek extra virgin olive oil to sell that also met their high standards.
To really appreciate the variety of items Pasqualina’s carries, you must visit. You won’t believe how much is fit into this modest store, still leaving room for a place to sit and lunch with a friend.
The gourmet sandwiches and subs – creative, fresh and made-to-order – will grab your attention right away. While you’re waiting for your sandwich, stroll around, sample some cheeses and peruse the shelves. You’ll find interesting oils and vinegars, pastas and canned goods imported from Italy, bruschetta, and preserves to complement cheeses; pastas, rice, polenta, imported sauces, as well as the fixings to make your own sauce. If you don’t feel like making your own, try Severino’s frozen pastas, raviolis and sauces, or Patty’s own sauce and meatballs (made from Tussock Sedge Farm organic, pasture-raised beef right next door to the market).
The market also carries deli meats including Italian specialties like Parma prosciutto and sopressata, and Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, a wide variety of olives and antipasto items, and Pasqualina’s Signature Pasta Salad with penne pasta, sweet roasted tomatoes, spinach, roasted peppers and imported cheeses.
And then there are the sweets. As we were sitting in the market, Patty was busy making chocolate pizelles, the delicate Italian waffle cookie. They also stock desserts from Bindi, gourmet chocolates, cannoli, and biscotti made by the Bucks County Biscotti Company. Don’t leave without some of Patty’s own crostini either.
What does the future look like? With growth exceeding their five year business plan, Patty and Brian are grateful. Their catering business has taken off, and they constantly strive to keep things fresh in the store, and keep their customers happy.
“We’re all about customer service, quality and consistency,” says Patty. In fact, it’s another “P” from their mission statement: We “Pledge” to “Please” you, our customer, by extending superior customer service. This became even more clear when I asked them what excites them most about the business. “People,” they both answered.
Brian describes the customer loyalty that has grown over the last four years. “It’s more than just a place people come to eat…its their deli.” He says it’s like when you find a great place, you want to share it with your friends. You even feel a sense of ownership, like this is “my find.” That’s how folks feel about Pasqualina’s.
Food is powerful too. It can reach into memories and bring us right back. “People will say, ‘I haven’t sat down and eaten like this since my grandmother died thirty years ago.'” says Brian. “That’s what this place does too, I think it helps people remember, and how important food is with family, and getting together.”
Pasqualina’s Italian Market & Deli
1259 Route 113
Blooming Glen, PA
Open Tuesday through Sunday.