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Market Indicators

The 1999/2000 Zagat New York City Marketplace Survey is about to hit bookstores. Ladies and Gentlemen, start your shopping carts.

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You know the drill -- and the style: Nearly 8,000 "picky" New Yorkers were polled by the "Gideon Bible of New York apartments" to find out their "most cherished places" for buying "all you would need for a gourmet dinner at home." While the new edition is "eagerly awaited," New York was able to get a "sneak preview" of the upcoming "rants and raves." Here, according to you, are some of the city's finest food emporia.

Rating System: Quality, variety, and service are each rated on a scale of 0-30: 0-9 = poor to fair; 10-15 = fair to good; 16-19 = good to very good; 20-25 = very good to excellent; 26-30 = extraordinary to perfection. The cost column reflects the estimated price range: I = inexpensive; M = moderate; E = expensive; VE = very expensive.

CHEESE AND DAIRY

DiPalo Dairy
29, 24, 25, I
206 Grand Street (226-1033)
There's "always a line" at "Little Italy's best" cheese shop (rated No. 1 for quality), but few seem to mind since "you're treated like family" by folks "who are passionate about their product" and will give you "a piece of Reggiano Parmigiano to nibble on" while you wait; whether it's the "excellent ricotta" or mozzarella, "everything tastes better here," or maybe, as one besotted fan whispers, "it's love!"

Ideal Cheese Shop
28, 27, 24, M
1205 Second Avenue, between 63rd and 64th Streets (688-7579)
"Still the champion," according to fans of this redolent East Side "cheese maven" (now in its forty-fifth year) with an "unbelievable variety" of "excellent cheese"; despite many warnings that the "expert" service can range from "helpful" to "grumpy," "if it exists, they have it" and there are "no crowds," so regulars wonder, "Why go anywhere else?"

Zabar's
27, 28, 20, M
2245 Broadway, between 80th and 81st Streets (787-2000)
"Millions go here for a reason," and even though its vaunted cheese counter can be a "zoo" where you have to "fend for yourself," no one seems to mind much -- this is, after all, the "king of the Upper West Side," with a "phenomenal" variety (No. 1 in this category) that's the "last word on cheese" at the "most competitive prices" (even if a few caution, "watch out for bargains that have gone bad"); one wistful surveyor offers up everyone's secret fantasy: "If only I could shop there . . . alone."

FISH

Citarella
28, 28, 24, E
1313 Third Avenue, near 75th Street (874-0383); 2135 Broadway, at 75th Street (874-0383)

Even famously contentious Upper West Siders are hard-pressed to find gripes about this "amazing" piscatory mecca (with an East Side sibling), dubbed "king of the sea" for its enticing, artistic displays of "glistening, superfresh fish" -- notably "awesome jumbo shrimp," scallops, Alaskan salmon, tuna burgers, and what some call New York's "best retail oyster selection"; it's a perennial contender for the title of best fishmonger, but buyer beware -- it's "not cheap."

Pisacane Midtown Seafood
27, 26, 25, E
940 First Avenue, between 51st and 52nd Streets (752-7560)

A major seafood wholesaler, this bazaarlike midtown fish market also sells its "restaurant-standard" seafood to retail customers: the "totally reliable" array includes "the best Alaskan crab's legs," flavorful shrimp," and "fish right off the boat" as well as seasonal delicacies; expert attention from the "honest, pleasant staff" makes the "messy, wet, and hectic" service area easier to bear, and though prices are high, the goods are "worth every penny."

Rosedale Fish and Oyster Market
27, 25, 23, E
1129 Lexington Avenue, between 78th and 79th Streets (288-5013)A "tried and true" Upper East Sider that's "what a neighborhood store should be" for its well-heeled clientele, offering "high-quality" seafood that ranges from "great lobsters," center-cut salmon, and scallops to "the best cooked shrimp," oyster stew, spreads, and seafood salads; foes cite "uneven" service that ranges from "courteous" to "grumpy" and "exorbitantly high" prices.

HERBS AND SPICES

Aphrodisia
26, 27, 22, M
264 Bleecker Street (989-6440)

"Snoozing cats" greet visitors to this "time-warp" West Villager, a "peaceful" "spice buyer's fantasy" that can, unfortunately, be marred by uneven service (sometimes "surly," sometimes "helpful"); regulars advise, "Take your time and enjoy" the "great variety and quality."

Kalustyan's
27, 27, 23, I
123 Lexington Avenue, between 28th and 29th Streets (685-3451)"Breathe deeply" and enjoy "heavenly fragrances" at this "longtime favorite" Lexington Avenue storefront that's been a "top source for Indian and Middle Eastern herbs and spices" since 1944; expect an "exotic array" that's "superfresh," "well priced," and "unsurpassed" for its "wonderful range" -- "if they don't have it, it doesn't exist."

Sahadi Importing Co.
27, 27, 23, I
187 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn (718-624-4550)For an "authentic spice market" ambience, try this venerable Brooklyn "mecca," where a "bounty of aromatic" herbs, spices, and "hard-to-find-elsewhere" items are sold in bulk and weighed before your eyes; the "seductive" fragrances, "helpful" staff, and "shockingly low prices" make this "cultural experience" "worth a special trip."

MEAT AND POULTRY

Florence Meat Market
29, 25, 27, M
5 Jones Street (242-6531)
"Step back in time" at this "real, old-fashioned" West Village shop, complete with "sawdust on the floor," "opera on the radio " and "butchers who know their stuff," turning out "sublime meats, cut your way" (special kudos to the "great Newport steaks") at "good prices"; some claim service is best for regulars, but to most, it's a "welcoming experience."

Lobel's Prime Meats
29, 27, 27, VE
1096 Madison Avenue, between 82nd and 83rd Streets (737-1373)
" 'Prime' says it all" about this "classic" Madison Avenue "meat boutique"; rated tops for quality, it offers "melt-in-your-mouth," "beautiful-looking" beef, veal, lamb, and more, plus "knowledgeable" service from fifth-generation butchers; the tab can be "outrageous" ("filet mignon the price of a one-bedroom co-op"), but "when you want to impress, buy here."

L. Simchick Meats
28, 26, 27, E
944 First Avenue, at 52nd Street (888-2299)
"Every neighborhood should have a Lenny," say fans of Leonard Simchick's east-midtown shop offering "excellent meats" and poultry, plus "ready-to-cook specialties" that "make life easy"; a "friendly" staff that provides "wonderful recipes" helps make it "worth the top-dollar" tab.

PASTAS

Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles
28, 25, 26, I
632 East 187th Street, Bronx (718-367-3799)
Fans of this quaint, family-owned business say it's worth the trek to the Arthur Avenue area for some of the city's "best homemade pasta," including "the Mona Lisa of ravioli"; in business since 1935, it's "a step back in time," complete with "nice people" who cut pasta "to order."

DiPalo Dairy
28, 24, 26, I
206 Grand Street (226-1033)
The DiPalo family has a reputation for making "the best cheese," and when their choice ricotta and mozzarella are blended into "delicate ravioli," patrons cry "come home to Mama!"; it's a pleasure just to visit this old-style Little Italy "standby" run by "friendly people" who "know their pasta."

Raffetto's
27, 25, 23, I
144 West Houston Street (777-1261)
A "Village tradition" since 1906, this "old-fashioned store" is filled with a big variety of "true Italian-style" pasta at "bargain" prices; it's "ravioli heaven" and "worth the trip" just to see the "pasta guillotine" that cuts noodles to order.


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