6 at 77th St.
American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
When native Sicilian Agata, husband Joe Musco, and Louis Balducci opened this southern Italian market they probably didn't expect they'd so fully convert the neighborhood to their charms. Some come for fast food, others for ingredients. There's plenty you didn't know you wanted here: whole pecans and demi glace; dried, caped gooseberries (tart, with a burnt-orange kick); racks of vividly colored, dent-free fruit and crisp lettuce—all of which worker-bees are continually restocking. In-store home-cooked foods include meatballs soft enough for babies, duck glazed to a sugary crunch, and sweet-and-tangy caponata, with tender eggplant and peppers that still have crunch. The Sicilian slant to the cooking highlights big-flavored ingredients, like anchovies, tomato and pistachio pastes, and ricotta; the 350-plus cheese counter features earthy, uncommon Le Marechal. The riches continue: The butcher carries mainly dry-aged Prime meats, and will custom-cut/order anything; the fish guy never pre-cuts steaks or filets. Espresso beans come from Agata's brother in Sicily, other coffees from Italy's mainland. The store itself, shaped like a question mark with right angles instead of curves, sports village-life embellishments--lanterns, wicker baskets, and fresh pasta slung like fabric over drying racks. The downside: sandwiches take forever, and cashiers squash fruit unless you ask twice to separate produce from sharper items.