ST. PETERSBURG — They come for the handmade linguini and ravioli, the fresh roasted espresso and 300 varieties of cheese from around the world.
On Saturdays, a mass of local families, tourists, even tour buses, descend on Mazzaro’s Italian Market, which has become an unlikely culinary destination amid a row of home improvement stores on 22nd Avenue North.
And now, if they lack the right pan to bake the perfect lasagna at home, Mazzaro’s fans can walk next door to peruse an extensive collection of high-end cookware, home goods and specialty items.
Cindy Richmond says the recently opened Casa di Mazzaro seemed like the next logical step for the Italian market her parents, Pat and Sam Cuccaro, started 18 years ago.
“It’s a whole shopping experience. Get your food and all that over there and then you come over here; I’ve got everything you need as far as kitchen gadgets, utensils, cookware, serving pieces, linings,” Richmond said.
“You can definitely come here and find everything you need, and maybe some things you didn’t need.”
Richmond has filled the 4,300-square-foot warehouse with kitchen goods she says can’t be found anywhere else in the area.
There’s the lasagna and pasta box, an Italian-made set of high-quality pots, pans and utensils assembled together in one box – everything needed to cook a meal.
There are reusable silicon lids that seal onto pots and pans and are safe for everything from refrigeration to ovens.
On the back wall are 40 silver canisters filled with loose leaf teas, a complement to Mazzaro’s popular coffee bar inside the market.
Eventually, Richmond envisions cooking classes on the second floor.
Longtime customer Mike Philbin discovered Mazzaro’s shortly after moving from Pittsburgh to Clearwater about a decade ago. The bustling indoor market reminded him of the collection of outdoor shops and grocers in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.
“This is it under one roof. This has everything you want here. It’s got the bakery. It’s got wine,” Philbin said.
“This [Casa di Mazzaro] is just a natural extension of that. This is a hidden gem, this place.”
The family behind Mazarro’s has grown several successful culinary ventures since moving from Pittsburgh to Florida, including the 4th Street Shrimp Store and St. Pete Bagel Co.
None have soared in popularity like the market, which grew from a coffee roasting business in an industrial district to a must-visit destination for foodies.
Founder Pat Cuccaro’s brother, Louis Mazarro, says it’s not just the food, but the sense of family that has made the business a special place to so many people.
On Saturday, he stood by the front door welcoming new and old customers to Casa di Mazzaro.
“It’s family, and the whole idea is to make everybody feel like they’re part of the family,” Mazzaro said.