Bear Bites: Che Fico’s Dazzling New Market

2 mins read

Che Fico, an innovative Italian restaurant that quickly became a local favorite after its opening last November, recently opened an Italian market next door called Il Mercato di Che Fico. It offers a wide variety of specialty Italian products, including organic produce, delicious hot-bar food, fresh meats, gelato, cheese, world-class wines, and even baked goods from an in-house bakery. Though it opened just a few weeks ago, the market is already attracting eager crowds of customers and holds a 5-star rating on Google.

Upon walking in, customers are greeted with stands of fresh strawberries and oranges, as well as vibrant bouquets. Further inside, the rest of the produce is on display, including kumquats, leeks, arugula, avocados, and a broad selection of mushrooms including the coveted lion’s mane and chanterelle. The produce tasted as spectacular as it looked; best of all were the strawberries, which were sweet with a satisfying twist of sour that tasted like they were picked in the peak of summer. The cheese selection brimmed with various local and imported kinds of cheese, offering local Californian goat cheeses, French brie, camembert, and almost every Italian cheese one could think of: mascarpone, ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino, and the iconic 36-month-aged parmesan reggiano. Although I would not consider myself a cheese connoisseur by any means, the parmesan was nothing less than perfect, sold in generous blocks filled with umami flavor, making up for its hefty price tag.

My favorite part of the market was their freshly baked focaccia. According to the shop’s website, this bread makes their signature deli sandwiches “bring a tear to the most ardent nonna’s eye.” They offer three different sandwiches: the meat “Y’at” sandwich, the Muffuletta, and a refreshing take on the traditional panini served on a warm rosemary focaccia. They all sell out quickly, so come early if you want to get one!

Each sandwich is served by the pound and sliced directly before you; all are reasonably priced, overflowing with salami, tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto, basil, and other tasty ingredients. I tried the “Y’at,” which is unlike any other sandwich I’ve ever tasted. The bread was fluffy, lightly salted, and sprinkled with rosemary. Inside were generous amounts of deli meats like prosciutto, bologna, salami, and mortadella, all pulled together by a light spread of mayo and provolone cheese topped with tapenade and pickings that provided an exciting burst of flavor. 

Il Mercato di Che Fico is one of the few local markets and restaurants with an in-house sommelier who creates a unique and in-depth wine profile to match the many foods they sell. Offering a vast array of Italian and French wines, the sommelier’s knowledge and experience in the world of wine were unmatched and impressive; each bottle was tagged with an in-depth description, some even earning the label of “Che Fico Favorite,” providing an accessible and authentic shopping experience to amateurs and vinophiles alike.

The fresh, high-quality meat and seafood counter was filled with beautifully-displayed cuts of meat, seafood, and shellfish. Nearby stood a selection of sauces, condiments, pre-marinated bavette steak and chicken, and premade soups. The steak is one of the most fantastic menu items at the restaurant, and the market upholds this delectability with a take-home version that is easy to cook on a grill or skillet. One item I believe should be a staple in everyone’s fridge is the herb dressing, best described as a chimichurri-esque sauce without vinegar. It’s full of aromatic herbs, spices, and garlic but not overpowering. I also picked up their chicken soup, a Jewish classic infused with Che Fico’s Italian influence. The soup only needs to be briefly warmed up on a stove or in a microwave, making it perfect to bring to school and work or for anyone who lives an on-the-go lifestyle. One of my favorite aspects of the dish was the fresh dill, which gives a pickle-like aftertaste that I had never tasted before. 

After my immersive exploration into Il Mercato di Che Fico, I concluded that this place is exactly what Menlo Park needed—a neighborhood staple and small business with incomparable commitment to authenticity and dedication to Italian cuisine. The store plans to open a house-made gelato bar soon, which I also believe will become a popular addition to the Peninsula dessert scene.

Niklas is a sophomore at M-A. This is his first year in journalism. He hopes to write about local events and politics. In his free time, Niklas enjoys exercising and going to Coffeebar!

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