Market Outlook

R omeo and Cesare’s Gourmet Shoppe, one of a few beloved neighborhood markets on upper Orange Street, was an East Rock institution for over 30 years. Neighbors were sad to see it go. But when word spread that the downtown cafe and bookstore Atticus was planning to expand into the storefront, the mood turned to excitement and curiosity.

When Atticus Market opened in March after an extensive renovation, that curiosity was satisfied with a bright, airy space incorporating coffee, bread, pastries, breakfast, lunch, groceries and books. Owner Charlie Negaro, Jr., describes his philosophy as a “mission question”: “What can a bookstore cafe do for our community and food system that is better for everyone?”

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One of Negaro’s answers is the CT Food Launchpad. The Launchpad is a mechanism for Atticus and local wholesale bakery Chabaso, which is owned by Negaro’s family, to support local early-stage food ventures by “refin[ing]… recipes for wholesale production,” then producing and selling the results and splitting the proceeds, according to Atticus/Chabaso marketing director Reed Immer. Aspiring entrepreneurs with products “that have already gained some momentum” can apply online; priority is given to “underserved” groups including women, people of color and veterans.

The market was selling three items ushered through the program. Honey Tarts ($5) made with honey from the Huneebee Project had a robust crust and a sweet, salty and creamy filling with a consistency somewhere between pudding and creme brulee. Coming by way of Sanctuary Kitchen are Keyk Kadoo ($5), an Afghan cardamom-spiced squash cake reminiscent of pumpkin bread, and Za’atar Rolls ($8 for 4), featuring herbs and spices rolled up in a savory dough.

You’ll also find an assortment of coffees and teas, made-to-order breakfasts and lunches (the kitchen is open until 3 p.m.) and prepared grab-and-go items, both hot and cold. I brought home a Roasted Mushroom Porridge ($11.50 with added egg) and my husband, a skeptic of the concept of a savory porridge, found himself pleasantly surprised. The combination of creamy grains, egg with perfectly runny yolk, cilantro, fried shallots and chili oil was both spicy and comforting. I sampled the Mushroom Cheese “Steak” ($13), a large meal for one or a light meal for two, and didn’t miss the steak thanks to meaty blue oyster mushrooms in a creamy sauce. The Banana Cream Tart ($7), piled high with banana slices, caramel sauce and whipped cream, shined.

As for grocery items, like the other markets along Orange Street, don’t expect to find everything you could possibly want on Atticus’s shelves, though they’ve got the essentials covered. Don’t expect bargain prices either, though it’s reassuring to know that Atticus pays its employees good wages and provides health insurance and retirement benefits for full-time staff.

In the weeks since opening day, Atticus has been steadily adding more stock. Small signs highlight local and regional suppliers. Thinking about what I might like to buy for a meal at home, I imagined a simple menu of pasta, salad, bread and chocolate chip cookies and scanned the store for ingredients. Flour, sugar, baking soda, chocolate chips, vanilla extract? Check. Pasta and sauce? Uh huh. Greens for a salad? Yep, though the produce section seemed sparse on the day I visited. As for bread, a number of choices were prominently displayed near the entrance. A crusty loaf of sourdough had the delicious tang you’d expect.

And because this is Atticus, books round out the varied offerings. There are a few staff picks and bestsellers, cookbooks, a handful of kids’ books and a small nature section with a local focus. Two racks of cards and a pile of colorful Atticus totes make it easy to assemble a gift.

Judging from busy picnic tables outside, Atticus Market may have already earned its place within Orange Street’s market culture. But Negaro is thinking beyond East Rock, hoping to contribute to the kind of vibrant, supportive and sustainable city where he wants to live.

Atticus Market
771 Orange Street, New Haven (map)
Daily 8am-7pm
(475) 241-6950

Written and photographed by Stephanie Wratten. Image 4 features Charlie Negaro, Jr.

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Stephanie Wratten dreams of traveling the world with her camera but enjoys calling New Haven home. Naturally curious, her work as an educator keeps life interesting. She is currently on a quest to grow lots of vegetables despite sharing a backyard with several hungry squirrels.

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