WINTERSVILLE, Ohio -- Riesbeck's Markets has gone ethnic with its deli at a newly opened store here.
Situated in an area with a sizeable Italian population, the store was a natural for a large antipasto cart and a substantial repertoire of custom-sliced Italian deli meats, officials said.
"We're right down the road from Steubenville, Dean Martin's home town," proclaimed Michelle Riesbeck, deli/foodservice director for the 13-unit independent based in St. Clairsville, Ohio. "In fact, Dean Martin Highway runs right by here. We knew our customers here would appreciate if they could get some of the items they had been buying at Italian markets."
The new menu at the company's 60,000-square-foot store that opened in June features the likes of marinated, fresh mozzarella balls; ricotta-stuffed peppers; braided, basil-flecked cheese; and mortadella. The feature in the deli that gives it an immediate Italian flavor is a six-foot, walk-around antipasto/olive bar. The refrigerated cart, parked directly across the aisle from the service deli counter, offers 18 wells of antipasto-type items and a wide variety of olives. Customers serve themselves at the cart, where the items have an across-the-board retail price of $7.99 a pound and are weighed at checkout.
Riesbeck said it's hard to say what's the best seller because everything stocked on the cart sells well, with some of the more upscale items going the fastest.
Most of the items are sourced from an Italian specialty food company, DeLallo, near Pittsburgh, and that is a selling point itself, Riesbeck explained. The cart's selections are designated with little signs that carry the brand name.
"DeLallo has a good name in this area. People know the brand from the Italian markets they've shopped at around here, and they're really surprised -- and happy -- that we've done this for them. They tell us they love it."
Some associates who were newly hired when the company moved to this location helped Riesbeck decide what ethnic items to add to the service deli's selection. They had first-hand knowledge of what sells well because several had worked at local, family-owned Italian markets that have closed.
"I hired four full-time people from four different Italian markets, and they've been a big help to me in figuring out what to carry. One of them, Tammy Bateman, had worked for an Italian market for years, before it closed recently."
Bateman told SN some of her old customers at DeCaria's Market, where she had worked for 18 years, have become regular shoppers at Riesbeck's. They're even coming from across the river in Weirton, W. Va.
"Word gets around. It's not that far away. It takes me about 11 minutes to get here [from her home in Weirton]. They were glad to see me here and very impressed that we have all these Italian foods, " Bateman said.
Though the Italian deli is a first for the retailer, Riesbeck's had prior experience catering to other ethnic groups with specialty items.
For instance, the Elm Grove, W. Va. store offers a selection of baked goods, including paczkis, to appeal to the area's Polish-American population, Riesbeck said.