PINELLAS PARK — Frank Sinatra warbled on the overhead speakers of DeCosmo Italian Market, serenading the guests stopping by the deli counter for lunch.
It was four days into the soft opening and already repeat customers had found their way back. The employees made a point to greet each by name.
“We’ve always had family dinners together,” said co-owner and manager Steven DeCosmo. “Any friend who was over the house joined us for dinner. And that’s what I feel like we’re doing here with the community — it’s basically from nonna’s kitchen to their table.”
DeCosmo Italian Market is the latest new business in Pinellas Park’s growing food scene. The grocery store and deli soft opened Sept. 13, with a grand opening scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m on Saturday and Sunday. There will be face painting and coloring for the kids, wine sampling, a raffle for gift baskets and a ribbon cutting.
The 5,000 square-foot trove of treats is spread out along a long, wide chunk of the strip mall at 6832 49th St. N. To the far left, caprese stacks and fried gnocchi peek out behind the antipasto bar next to the deli counter. To the right is the cafe area, where bellinis, Italian sodas and cappuccinos flow.
Somewhere in between, there are at least 55 specialty cheeses for sale, with more imported goodies to follow. Shelves are filled with pantry essentials, from olive oils and vinegars to specialty seasonings and candies. Roman-style bread is supplied by local wholesale baker Clemente, but customers also can find gluten-free dried pasta and double zero flour. And for those under a time crunch, pre-made pizzas, lasagnas and soups wait in the refrigerator.
The name DeCosmo comes from the three brothers who own and manage the market.
The youngest, Vincent “Vincenzo” DeCosmo, 30, started teaching himself Italian in 2013. He spent years working at a local market learning about bread and pastries before eventually working as a cheesemonger. These days, he clocks into the family business at 8 a.m., stretching fresh mozzarella before translating emails from Italian vendors into English.
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Meanwhile Paul DeCosmo hangs out in the kitchen, helping prepare 13 varieties of fresh pasta. At 45, he’s the eldest brother, plus the family historian: He’ll tell you about how his great-grandfather Giovanni came to America from Italy in the early 1900s. How later in 1953, the next generation of DeCosmos would move from Brooklyn to St. Petersburg. And how by the 1980s, the family opened several sandwich shops around town.
Middle brother Steven DeCosmo, 42, takes care of the cafe area, which includes a coffee bar and seating for shoppers to enjoy a meal. Here customers will find nitro cold brew, Prosecco and sangria on tap, plus dessert: gelato flights served in biscotti bowls ($20). He lead a tour through the market, pointing out framed pictures of his parents that hang outside of the cellar of 127 wines. At the pastry counter, he urged this reporter to try a pine nut-studded pignoli cookie, chewy and still warm. It’s one of many recipes passed down by their mother, Jackie. She made the brothers each a cookbook one year for Christmas filled with her specialties.
Throughout the market, shoppers will find her dishes — and family stories.
Take the Paully, a toasted 10-inch hoagie loaded with hefty meatballs, melted provolone and mozzarella and a dollop of mom’s red sauce ($12.99).
“When we were old enough to cook in high school, our buddies would come sleep over and we would make pasta for them,” Paul DeCosmo remembered. “And they’re like, ‘man, this is so good. You need to jar this.’”
The antipasto bar is stocked with traditional seafood salad the family prepares on Christmas Eve for the Feast of the Seven Fishes ($16.99/ pound). Quarts of Italian wedding soup ($9.99), made every New Year’s Eve, elicit memories of their grandmother. Their Aunt Cristy used to count up the meatballs and have the children guess how many were in the pot for a prize.
The brothers are proud of their Italian heritage, and their Pinellas County roots. The cafe area tells the family’s story, with framed naturalization papers and pictures of the DeCosmos over the years on display. There’s even a to-scale model of the Bocca della Verità (aka “Mouth of Truth”) statue in Rome next to the front door.
The brothers currently are working to achieve Italian dual citizenship, with dreams of visiting family, coordinating direct imports and touring vineyards. But with a new business, the focus remains on meeting the local Italian-American community, which has been welcoming since the market opened.
“I didn’t realize how many Italians lived in this area until we opened our doors,” Paul DeCosmo said. “And we get to hear their family stories, too.”
If you go
DeCosmo Italian Market is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m Tuesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. They are closed on Mondays.