The SoNo MarketPlace is springing to life at 314 Wilson Avenue in South Norwalk and will change how Fairfield County views food markets. The MarketPlace is the brainchild of John Palino, the New Yorker who oversaw the creation of more than twenty restaurants, bars and nightclubs and the host and co-creator of “The Kitchen Job,” New Zealand’s top rated food focused series. The site, influenced by the ambience of the food courts of France “will combine a seasonal outdoor farmers market with a year-round indoor urban marketplace.” Located within the transforming industrial area of SONO, John Palino, Joe Grasso, and Lindsay Sudel, will revitalize the water view property to create a foodie destination with additional shopping. Palino and Grasso are also taking a personal interest in three of the culinary booths: FLAT WHITE COFFEE, the SONO CANTINA, and GOTTA NIBBLE.
Upon entering the property you are greeted by a beautifully designed 100-foot long rough-hewn wood pergola. The space beneath this classic structure is divided into twenty individual booths for the outdoor marketplace, each dedicated to the produce of local farmers. Year-round awnings will be installed above the pergola to block the seasonal elements and the local farmers will only need to bring their crops; from the earliest lettuces of spring to the pumpkins of Halloween and the trees of Christmas, the area will be available for every season.
The outdoor vendors are only the beginning of the SoNo MarketPlace. Beyond the pergola, a 25+ foot tower, comprised of metal, wood and cloth, beckons the visitors to enter and experience the indoor market. The interior greets the customers with the aromas of the culinary treats and the energy of fifty additional booths; approximately twenty of them dedicated to culinary arts and the remainder concentrated on a variety of other products.
The artisan food is clearly the primary focus and the list of food vendors is impressive, including local favorites WAVE HILL BAKERY, FESTIVITIES CATERING and CHOCOPOLOGIE. Additional booths will be occupied by NOTHIN' BUT - GRANOLA, a unique blend of organic oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit for a premium snack bar, breakfast granola and parfaits; OLIVETTE, with over forty varieties of first cold press unfiltered extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars; ORONOQUE FARM BAKERY, selling homemade pies and baked goods; and HORMAN’S PICKLE FACTORY, selling ten varieties of their cold-pack beauties.
The area immediately to the right upon entering the building is dedicated to one of Palino’s passions, FLAT WHITE COFFEE, a true, rich, perfectly brewed single shot latte from New Zealand that is prepared by pouring steamed milk over a single or double shot of espresso. As I sat and spoke with Palino, he described how New Zealand flat white is the epitome of perfect coffee; it is not a foamy concoction but creamy throughout the drink. He explained that the key to a perfect cup of Flat White coffee is the handling of the cream as the barista must carefully prepare the cream to create the perfect, velvety consistency throughout the cup. Palino and Grasso with also oversee the SONO CANTINA, which will offer great wines and beer and GOTTA NIBBLE, which will sell prepared fish and homemade French fries with the choice of twenty different sauces.
In addition, the gastronomic area will offer prepared foods including MANERO’S BUTCHER, who will offer both fresh meats and traditional steak sandwiches; plus PIZZA PATSO, offering traditional Neapolitan pizza; and PASTA PATSO, selling Italian pastas, baked dishes and delicious appetizers. Likewise, customers looking for high quality fish will find BLOOM BROTHERS, distributors of the freshest oysters and clams and TILDEN SEAFOOD, selling fresh, locally caught fish.
Vendors will rent the raw booth space and personalize with decorations and specialized equipment. Each vendor is screened by Palino and must meet his desire of having "people who will add to the space, not take away from it." Vendors will create a community amongst themselves; there will be no competition. In addition, during the month, vendors will have the option of hosting a Theme Night dinner. Currently scheduled are a Farm-To-Table Dinner, a Moroccan Dinner and an Indian Bollywood Dinner. Specially designed 12-foot Green Pine Plank tables will allow seating for up to 75 guests and all of the cooking will be done on the premises. During the dinner the vendor will speak to the guests about their menu, the culture, and the history of the focused area. In addition, artisans will show their wares or art that evening.
“We are one large family under one large roof and we look forward to having guests in our new home! “
Palino and Grasso’s visions expand beyond this inspired replica of a European farmer’s market; Phase II of the SoNo MarketPlace is even more exciting. Over the next few years they plan to expand this culinary destination to include five to seven restaurants plus a cooking school.
With an anticipated October opening, the SoNo MarketPlace will be available for all the farmers’ fall crops. As Palino stated, “I want people to come here every week to enjoy the food and shop.” And with the purveyors that he has assembled, this will be a destination for many years to come.
SoNo Marketplace 314 Wilson Avenue, Norwalk