By Chris Shaffer


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you’re looking to try new and different ethnic foods, your closest international grocer is most likely going to have the exact ingredients you need.

There’s a place in St. Paul where your eyes and nose will probably decide for you: Cossetta Market and Italian Grocery on Seventh Street.

There probably isn’t a word in our Minnesota lexicon that prompts a more Pavlovian response than Cossetta. Don’t be alarmed by the sudden awakening of your taste buds, and the involuntary opening of your salivary glands. This is completely normal and will probably subside after a plate of mostaccioli and a piece or two of garlic bread.

You see, this deli-style eatery is a Minnesota institution.

“The variety we have here, you don’t find anywhere else,” said Filippo Caffari, director of Cossetta’s culinary team.

But before the penne chicken salad, before the lasagna, and before lucky St. Paulites were just a card swipe away from the best Italian food around, we have to go back to the year 1911, and a little Italian food market.

“This was the beginning. The meat department and the market,” Filippo said. “All the rest had come after.”

(credit: CBS)

For over 100 years, founders Michael and Irene Cossetta’s dream of bringing authentic Italian foods to St. Paul is alive and well in the best international grocery store in Minnesota.

“If you want Italian … if you like Italian culture, you come here,” he said. “We choose to bring the high-quality [items], what you don’t find in big box stores. We don’t want to be like them, we want to be special.”

He is trying to get across, is there is a big difference in the ingredients you choose. There’s Italian and then there’s Italiano!

“See this pasta here? You don’t find it anywhere else, just New York, maybe,” Filippo said. “This is the most important ingredient you put on the plate. You want to have the best.”

And the customers that shop here have come to expect the best.

“Their fresh bread is amazing,” said a customer.

It is! In fact, you would be defying the odds if you didn’t buy bread at Cossetta’s because you have to walk past it twice, coming in and going out.

“We bring in Italian bakers who can teach us how to make different types of bread. You come in here by 9 o’clock, you smell the bread,” Filippo said. “It brings me back to when I was a little kid.”

You will also learn that olive oil isn’t just olive oil.

“You want olive oil from Sicily, from Tuscany, from Liguria, from Puglia, from Sardinia, we have it,” he said.

And their Italian sausage is leggendario.

“If Cossetta was Disney World, our sausage is the Mickey Mouse,” Filippo said. “It’s the most famous sausage I think in Minnesota.”

Whatever you need to create fine Italian cuisine is right here. And they certainly don’t skimp in the cheese department. They have 150 different kinds. Plus, their Italian chocolate selection that will easily give their Swiss neighbors a run for their money.

All this, right in St. Paul, in keeping with a 100-year-old dream.

“You want something special, you come to Cossetta,” Filippo said.

In addition to the market, the eatery and catering, Cossetta also offers a fine dining experience in their Louis Ristorante & Bar on their top floor.

Chris Shaffer

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