Joseph's Classic Market: Defying the Economy With Upscale Market

If this is precisely the wrong moment in history to open a pricey, upscale gourmet grocery in a suburban shopping mall, you'd never know it from the debut of Joseph's Classic Market in the swanky Shops of Boca.

The noontime crush of pasteled, Polo-ed and executive-clad Boca-ites filled the aisles of the smallish but impressively well-stocked market, surging and eddying around walkers and wheelchairs that clogged the narrow arteries like clumps of slow-moving cholesterol. Employees bearing trays of cold cuts, cheeses, and sushi flitted around the back of the store, while up front the lines at the registers grew and grew and grew. It was like senior citizens' happy hour with vegetables.

The Boca market is the third for Joseph Acierno, joining stores in Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington as well as in New York, where the company originated. It seemed that every inch of the new stores 9,200 square feet was packed with gastronomic temptations.

There are gorgeous globe artichokes as big around as a baby's head, green and white asparagus, giant fava beans half as long as a hose, plump heirloom tomatoes, and tiny new potatoes. There are enough prepared foods -- what in the business they call home meal replacements -- to keep Boca in red sauce through the next millennium. The lengthy meat counter displays magazine-perfect slabs of certified Angus beef, fat links of house-made sausages, and everything else a carnivore requires. An equally capacious seafood counter shows off everything from rosy sides of salmon to cute little softshell crabs.

There's a salad bar, a brick pizza oven, a deli, a corner devoted to fine wine, plus enough oils, vinegars, olives, tomato sauces, imported pastas, dips, spreads, and pastes to give Williams-Sonoma a corporate hernia. There is, not to put too fine a point on it, an awful lot of stuff.

Recession? What recession?

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Bill Citara