Monday, November 17, 2014

The New Grace's Marketplace: Grace, Style And The New "Foodie Central" of The Upper East Side!

By: Anne M. Raso

I was lucky enough to attend the opening day of the eagerly anticipated new Grace's Marketplace at 1299 Second Avenue on the Upper East Side. It was back in April that proprietor Grace Doria learned that her successful business of 29 years had to move from its convenient location at the corner of 71st and Third (the landlord simply did not want food businesses in his building any longer). Ms. Doria found even bigger digs in a newly constructed building at 68th and Second, and it opened on the exact day (November 4th) as her old space opened 29 years ago.
Grace's Grand Opening
Her legendary restaurant Grace's Trattoria just east of the Marketplace also closed down but the clever Doria resurrected it as a wonderful granite countertop eatery in the center of the new store--and never fear, she has the same chef on duty! Food comes to your space at the counter super quickly and is wonderfully fresh. I caught up with Doria herself while she was enjoying her favorite for lunch at the counter--the Fish Tacos. It looked so fresh that I wondered if the cook staff caught the fish themselves early in the morning! The Grace's salad bar is now full service and there is a wonderful espresso bar at the front right of the store. A best-kept secret is that there will be samples of wonderful cakes, muffins and croissants for customers to take, not unlike an old-time neighborhood bakery. Doria tells me that there will be more "random sampling" in the new space and there will be expanded lines of products--or what she terms "more subcategories of brands. Grace's has always only stocked things that have been proven, even if they are new to the market. "My family tests all new products before we decide to stock them," she tells me. "Customers can also make special requests to our managers."
Grace of Grace's Trattoria
Grace is proud of the fact that prices have been kept the same as in the previous store even though the new digs are bigger. I have always loved the Grace's Marketplace produce section and noticed that it expanded a great deal. In a layman's eyes, it appears to be about a sixth of the 7000-plus square feet floor space. I noticed that the prices were considerably better than other famous gourmet markets in any neighborhood of Manhattan. I was taken down to the basement--which is the same size of the Marketplace upstairs--by Grace's friendly and efficient PR guy Steve. I have to say that it was a real experience. I checked out the produce room, the meat locker (I had never seen one except in Goodfellas and on The Sopranos) and the food prep area. I can honestly say that everything looked so clean and neat that I would be willing to eat off the floor. The huge produce room turned out to be completely filled by only one day of product and anyone working in produce will be happy to try to get customers what they need the same day if it is not in stock (not to many store can lay claim to that)!
Meat Counter
I am going back soon for more random sampling. The first day brought out a multitude of Grace’s purveyors and I was thrilled to try everything from prosecco to olive oil to an exclusive brand of Greek yogurt. Grace's is great for specialty items you cannot get anywhere else--but I probably did not have to tell you that if you are one of their beloved regular customers! A product I was really impressed with was the canned truffle sauces by Urbani Truffles. They could be spread on French bread like it was served in the store on November 4th or it could be heated up and put over pasta. One small can is good enough for a whole pound of pasta. And speaking of truffles, there is a special case in the deli section devoted to them where several kinds are available depending on the season. I have personally always been a sucker for Grace’s succulent desserts. Nearby are assortments of chocolates and other sweets--and there is a wonderful large display of seasonal chocolates at the moment. If you want chocolate turkeys to put on your Thanksgiving table, Grace's Marketplace is the place to come.
Special Truffle Counter
Grace's Marketplace and Trattoria have always been a central meeting and shopping place on the Upper East Side and residents are happy that they have so much more to choose from now. The Grace's Trattoria in the center of the store is already turning out to be a great place for quick eats--where you can also watch the staff custom cook your order--but the place where old neighbors meet and new friendships are made! For more info, go to

Photos by Anne Raso

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