What do you think is the number one ranked Italian eatery in St. Petersburg, Florida?  Well if you guessed a fine dining establishment, you would be wrong . . . it’s a marketplace, an Italian market and there are no white linens in this unbelievable place!  That’s right according to Trip Advisor, this market is a ‘don’t miss’ place for foodies and Italian aficionados if in the St. Pete area.
Being in Mazzaro’s Italian Market is also an EXPERIENCE!
While on our trip last week to Tampa , we made sure that we visited this Italian market extravaganza!  I always log on to Trip Advisor for unsolicited travel advice from fellow sojourners whenever and wherever I embark on a new destination and need tips and advice on knowing ‘where to go’.   This is the site where Mazzaro’s Italian Market is ranked #1 to eat in St. Petersburg, FL.  It is recommended by many to go early, especially on Saturdays, due to the crowds and difficulty in finding a parking space.  Also, if you go early the fresh baked bread is still warm and so is the fresh mozzarella.
There is absolutely nothing like this in South Carolina where the Italian population may be somewhere around 1%!  So this was a place that I just HAD to see.  Let me warn you first before you scroll through the photos . . . this place is HUGE!  I couldn’t snap enough shots to insert into this post, so I’ll just give you a brief tour, starting with the exterior of the building below (it was about 3 buildings altogether).
Wall frescos are painted on the buildings exterior walls get you in the mood.
Immediately upon entering Mazzaro’s, you enter the meat department to get your mouth watering!  T-shirts and bags are on the left for souvenirs
. . . and yes, I bought a t-shirt!
Just look at the thickness of the ‘osso bucco’!
The ‘Kobe” ground beef was $10.00 a pound and a man ahead of me purchased 25 pounds!
He said it was the best hamburger one could ever sink their teeth into.
I would have purchased a pound, but we were staying in a hotel and therefore unable to grill some burgers with it
 . . . another reason to return!
Beautiful cuts of beef!
Just look at those thick Angus NY Strips and they even sell hard-to-find Braciola!
Since we were on our way to having a picnic by the beach,
I went straight for the Sopprasetta in the cured meats section that followed.
What would a picnic be without cheese?
 So we selected the last slab of imported Italian Fontina.
We also bought a ball of still-warm, fresh Mozzarella that spread like butter!
A true, authentic cheesemonger proud of his goods on display!
The next stop is the fresh coffee bean bar with over 20 varieties
and more that were already packaged.
How about some olives, a few roasted red peppers, some sun-dried tomatoes,
and some marinated garlic for a simple antipasto to take on our beach-side picnic?
Sounds good to me!
Here’s an assortment of fresh pastas, both filled and non-filled
. . . the line was the longest at this counter;
understandably, since most people don’t want or know how to make fresh pasta!
I was drooling over the fresh gnocchi (furthest to the right, next to the tortelloni).
A woman behind a glass window was barely able to keep rolling fresh pasta fast enough
to keep up with the pace of the pasta selling to hungry customers.
For those pasta shapes that are so difficult to find, there was an imported dried pasta section . . .
Above and below is the counter of prepared foods for you to either eat out on the patio where an Italian band plays some oom-pah-pah
on Saturdays or to box up to take home (or to take on a picnic like we did).
Next to the prepared entrees, you walk by the freshly-made Italian pasta and vegetable salads (sorry the photo is a bit blurry).
Above and below are photos of the wine department full of Italian varietals.
What would an Italian al fresco picnic be without a little vino?
Who says Italians don’t make great sweets?  These certainly rival those of the French!
Here’s the pastry counter above and the cakes below to prove anyone wrong.
This was the second busiest counter and for good reason!
How do you even begin to pick one or two sweet treats?
Above is a Tiramisu cake that we bought a slice of just for a change from regular Tiramisu.
I’m glad that we tried it, but it doesn’t hold a candle to true Tiramisu, so go for the real deal if you are fortunate enough to go to Mazzaro’s.
More cakes and cannoli!
One of three aisles of packaged imported Italian specialties from olive oils, balsamic vinegars, to dozens of San Marzano tomatoes.
All the Italian specialty foods that I can’t find anywhere in South Carolina!
I could have bought out this entire food section to take home with me
. . . but sanity set in and I justified a return trip
. . . with a van!
 Gelato, creamy, sweet gelato!  Say no more!
For our picnic, we ultimately chose the freshly baked bread (still warm when we bought it),
Italian Fontina cheese, olives, marinated red peppers,
sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and the soppraseta.
We also selected this incredible fig and prosciutto flat bread for our picnic . . . YUM!
To end our picnic, we enjoyed small bites of these super rich Italian sweets:
A St. Joseph’s almond filled Zeppele (on the left), Tiramisu Cake, and a cinnamon-cream-filled and chocolate dipped Cannoli.
We noshed on these for a second day, they were so BIG!
What a culinary experience to remember!
I know one thing for sure, I would love to return to St. Petersburg, FL
every year if only to visit this incredible Italian market!