I have to admit that I've got a bit of the sweaty palm action going on while writing this, after all, Jenicca's, subject of my first real "Best of Downtown" entry, announced they were closing just a week or so after I wrote the entry. What other downtown businesses can I doom? Instead of calling this the Best of Downtown, I think I should start calling it "What's Left of Downtown?" Loyal readers, you can just assume that if I blog it, it's one of the best.
I've only been there a total of four times or so, but the whole Melillo's complex located in Piazza di Felice on Market Street between Shelby and Campbell Streets is a charming little oasis of foodie goodies.
I first stumbled upon the Piazza when looking for the Phoenix Hill Farmers' Market on a Tuesday a little while ago. This market was over for the year as of the end of October; it was on Tuesdays from 300p-6:30pm and featured your standard veggies, a butcher, and some gourmet food from the Bodega. (I love that Uncle Mayor Jerry has a whole page on his website devoted to the locations, times, and dates for the metro area farmers' markets. You can find that here.) (Correction: according to the Bodega's website, the Phoenix Hill farmers' market continues through Thanksgiving)
The Bodega, the gourmet food market, sandwich shop, and cafe on premises, offers an awesome craft beer selection at grocery store prices. I was able to find Dixie Brewing Co's Blackened Voodoo beer for merely $7.99. The store offers just about everything you'd expect a small gourment food store to offer. The first time I went there it was after work, and I watched a woman plunk down nearly $60 for all the makings for a pasta dinner: bread, cheese, pasta, tony jarred sauce, beer. I couldn't help but think, "Maybe she should just go to Melillo's; it would cost around the same, and they do the dishes." A later visit was during lunch time, and the place was booming (yay for the downtown lunch crowd). I've yet to try either their breakfast or lunch menues, but they seem reasonably priced and the sandwiches and salads looked great. Bodega brews Java coffee and makes smoothies. They offer free wifi and have lovely outdoor seating. Bodega is open 7am-7pm M-F and 8a-4pm on Saturday. Closed Sundays.
Roommate and I hit Melillo's for the first time the night of September's Friday Trolley Hop (I'm bitter that I missed last night's Trolley Hop because I was stoned out of my gourd on painkillers; September's Hop was the best night I've had since I moved downtown). It was later than they were usually open, but it was a lovely night and they had live jazz on the patio. Roommate and I ordered two glasses of wine and a small antipasto. It's $10 for the small antipasto and $16 for the large-- but the small plate was heaped with stuff that made a great "while you're drinking" snack. That stop was a highlight of a great evening overall. A few weeks later, Big Mama Lou and I went for a proper dinner the night before Lou's last chemo (whoopeeee!!) and together we ordered way more food than we could possibly consume. I consider myself something of a mussels conniseur, and Melillo's mussels appetizer was as yummy as it comes. Unfortunately, Mama Lou insisted on ordering the same thing that I ordered, so I only got a sense of one dish, but it was certainly good (and unfortunately not listed on the menu on the website, and I forget what it was... penne, chicken [although I skipped the chicken], cream sauce, something...). The best thing about Melillo's is the cozy, homey vibe. And while Melillo's is too pricey to be a regular stop for this Lou, I'll definitely keep it in mind for nice nights out and for someplace to go for a glass of wine and an appetizer.
The last component of Piazza di Felice is Felice Vineyard, which I know bupkus about. I checked out the website and am no more enlightened. Urban vineyard. There are vines out front. The website cites wines from 2003 & 2004. The website also says that they're adding a second story for apartments. Event venue. Open Fridays? I'll have to check this out-- anyone have any information on Felice Vineyards?
Anyway, Piazza di Felice-- One of the best of what's left of downtown.