There are plenty of great food retailers in New Jersey, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You no longer have to cross the river for top-notch ingredients and products.
Here are some of the places that I found myself returning to again and again in 2006, and before that, and likely after that as well, which makes me ask how this post is specific to 2006 at all:
Swiss Pork Store - Fair Lawn, NJ
The Swiss Pork Store is an institution in Fair Lawn, and certainly of a dying bread. It's the type of old-school place where they'll give you a slice of whatever they're slicing while you wait.
It's my source for pork shank, fantastic hot dogs, and, perhaps surprisingly, the best ground beef this side of Peter Luger's. Their ground beef is some of the freshest and most flavorful that I've had. I usually grind my own beef for hamburgers, but I gotta say that the Swiss Pork Store does a far better job. Maybe they put pig in it. Actually that's a good idea.
Rispoli Pastry Shop - Ridgefield, NJ
I'm not one for sweets, generally speaking. But I can appreciate a tasty dessert as much as the next guy. A few years ago I went to a friend's party, and was introduced to the "lobster tail" (Sfogliatella, for you Italians - EDIT: readers of tommy:eats assure me that I am wrong in the comments below - those ungrateful bastards). When they were presented to the crowd, I figured I was obligated, as a good guest, to give it a try. I offered to split one with the missus, hoping I wouldn't have to eat the whole thing. Well after that first bite we were back on line for seconds. They were from Rispoli Pastry Shop. I'm not sure if they're the best on the planet, but as far as I'm concerned they are the end-all be-all of Sfogliatella. Tell me I'm wrong.
Jerry's Italian Gourmet - Ridgewood and Englewood, NJ
Jerry's is my go-to place for Italian tuna packed in olive oil. It's pricy for sure, but man this is some good tuna. I'm also quite fond of jarred their tomato sauce, which is perfect in a pinch. Nothing but good stuff in their sauce. Of this you are assured.
Cheesecake Aly - Glen Rock, NJ
Yeah OK so I claim I'm not big on sweets, but I'll suck down 3 Sfogliatella and the better part of a cheesecake given the opportunity (about twice a year: Thanksgiving and Christmas). Cheesecake Aly is a great find. She makes some wonderful cheesecakes and sells them over the internet and at her unassuming shop next to the railroad tracks on the Glen Rock/Ridgewood border.
Stop and Shop/Kings Supermarkets - Midland Park/Ridgewood, NJ
I remember when Kings was the "fancy" supermarket, putting to shame the old-school places like Shop-Rite. Well the landscape of food retailing has changed dramatically, even over the past few years, and Kings and its ilk fell behind. Way behind. Recently, though, it seems that supermarkets are leap-frogging past each other, offering more and more gourmet ingredients, probably spurred by the likes of Whole Foods and Wegmans. My local Stop and Shop and Kings have stepped up their offerings in the last year. Now, I can walk out with bread from Balthazar and Sullivan Street bakeries. Life is good.
Ridgewood Fisheries - Ridgewood, NJ
There's a tiny little Japanese market tucked into Ridgewood. They've got all sorts of Japanese ingredients, including some wacky fresh produce. You can also rent up a few Japanese video tapes, if that's your thing. Most importantly, to me, is the selection of sushi-quality fish. Instead of driving to Han Ah Reum in Litte Ferry (and other locations, I can pop into Ridgewood, 7 days a week, for some tuna for tuna tartare. Right there across from the bus station at Van Neste Square. Seriously. Go look for yourself. And then tell your friends about it.
Farmers' Markets - at a parking lot near you.
You'll often find me (please don't come looking) at the Ridgewood farmers' market on Sunday mornings in the summer, picking up some bread, pickles from Picklelicious, and fresh-made (right there) mozzarella from Bella Mozzarella. Don't miss Bella Mozzarella's sun-dried tomatoes either.
Here they be:
Swiss Pork Store : 24-10 Fair Lawn Ave : Fair Lawn, NJ : 201.797.9779
Rispoli Pastry Shop : 824 Broad Ave : Ridgefield, NJ : 201.943.6002
Jerry's Italian Gourmet : 410 S Dean Street : Englewood, NJ : 201.871.7108 and 24 Franklin Ave : Ridgewood, NJ
Cheesecake Aly : 530 Broad Street : Glen Rock, NJ : 800.555.8862
Ridgewood Fisheries : 30 Prospect Street : Ridgewood, NJ : 201.670.0882