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« Terra Sole: Ridgefield's Hidden Gem | Main | Saffron Indian Cuisine: An Unexpected Gem in Norwalk »

SoNo Marketplace Opening Soon in Norwalk

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

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Reader Comments (14)

This is pretty cool, if it can survive. The problem is price. If it's at a premium, how are they going to get the volume needed to stay afloat and make the effort worth it? We will see. If it can survive, that's great.

September 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRA

It looks fantastic, and the NZ flat white coffee is a must try.

This is the first I've read about it, so congrats to CTB for breaking the story.

September 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLou

It should do very well as Rowayton is very close by and the traffic from the new SONO Ice House and the SONO Field House should bring many upscale foodies to the location.

September 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDW

This sounds like an Eataly for Fairfield County! Similar to any of the famous European markets such as Les Halles in Paris or La Boqueria in Barcelona and many others. It's a concept that needs to be implemented if any of the new farm-to-table or sustainable marketing of our local crops are to be shared by the population at-large. We need to educate our children and ourselves about other cultures if we expect to change our views on eating a healthy diet.
I wish them all the success in this exciting new market idea. I can't wait till it opens!!!!!

September 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSylviaR

Great idea, strange location. In order for a market like this to succeed you need the foot traffic to support it like a real European market or like Eataly in NY or Reading Terminal in Philly. It's about time the area had a real food market like this, I just wish it were closer to downtown SoNo on the waterfront.

September 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGothamite

I wonder if it'll do well with the lingering smell of City Carting and it's garbage trucks as it's neighbor. I'm sure they are opening up in the cooler fall and winter weather so the customers don't get the gross smells from CITY CARTING during the hot and steamy Summer months. Just wait till you get a wiff of the garbage smell over that way.

CIty Carting needs to move to a different place if these Sono markets want to survive.

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLS

cant wait, it looks like is going to be a lot of fun...

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRafael Santaella

Any word on WHEN this is projected to open?

September 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLee

One week before the end of October--are we opening this month or what? Can't wait, but doubtful we're making an October debut. Best fix the South Norwalk roads before opening the floodgates to what sounds like a local Foodie's Paradise.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Lee / Laura / et. al.

The current timeline has the SONO MarketPlace opening in early November. When we hear a definitive date we will post.

October 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

You mentioned events that are planned, but there is no website or anywhere to read about these events. Does the Marketplace have a web presence to let people know about such things?

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

We went today. Awesome place!!! Can't wait to go back and shop. We sampled a lot of different stuff and it was all great. Inviting, friendly and cool place! Be sure to go.

November 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim N

Never thought that it would make it. John Palino is no more and now running by itself or not.
100 degrees, closes early, vendors are leaving. What a surprise.

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSally Ann

That's a shame - but it is a weird location and I just never got this place. Too much "stuff" and not enough food.

And the whole "a European Style Market" thing, besides being inaccurate, was just silly - I guess trying to appeal to the more money than sense Gold Coast crowd - but that conflicted with the downscale stuff at many of the non-food stalls.

The location may have been the fatal flaw, but why they didn't just try to position this as a medium scale city market (nothing European about it), like Fairfield County's version of things like Baltimore's Inner Harbor Market, or Philly's Reading Terminal Market, or Montreal's Marche Atwater, or any number of successful city markets?

Way overthought - sometimes simple is good.

July 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris Grimm

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