Mazzaro’s Italian Market and Iron Girl

23 04 2012

Happy Monday! Is there really such a thing as “happy” Monday? Meh!

Saturday marked only one week til my marathon! EEP! I’m fully in taper mode, so my plan called for “only” 8 miles. I originally had plans to run my 8 over in St. Pete or Clearwater and then hang at the beach the rest of the day, but when I saw that it was likely going to rain, I decided to stick close to home.

Now I just need to do that 2 more times + 2.2 miles. No big deal. (YIPES!!)

I still had to head over to Clearwater though, because I signed up to volunteer at IronGirl and I needed to check in on Saturday. While over on that side of the state, I figured I’d head down to St. Pete. A few friends had told me about this magical Italian market called Mazzaro’s. They insisted I check it out, and since I didn’t have anything else to do, I figured I would!

Friends, I was NOT disappointed. I was a little overwhelmed, but OMG this place was incredible!

From the moment I arrived, I knew this was going to be an experience. I pulled in to the parking lot, and a man directed me to where I could find a spot. Their 1st lot was full, so I had to go into their second lot.  When you need someone directing traffic into the 2nd parking lot, I think you’ve got something good going on…

As I walked towards the entrance, I passed these cool cars. Definitely some fun photo ops at this place!

I also passed a few groups of people sitting at the picnic tables or benches eating some delicious looking gelato. Oooh baby, I was excited! I walked through the door and immediately started beaming. This is my kind of place! The entry way was bustling with people – to my right were people who were checking out, to my left was the meat counter, and people were in line waiting to get their steaks.  I pushed through, and made it to the hallway of beer and some other refrigerated food, including these sausage:

Then to my right I saw a man and a woman with a glass of wine. Just walking around the grocery store with a glass of white wine! I was a little confused, but then I saw it; right behind them was the wine and cheese room! I walked in and was amazed by the number of wines they had. There was a wine bar set up where they were doing tastings, and I’m also assuming that is where the couple got their glass of wine, but there were too many people crowded around so I just perused the aisles. I really liked the rustic/wine cellar feel of this room. I just wish it hadn’t been so crowded! I hung around the cheeses for awhile, sampling a few and debating whether or not I wanted to buy. I figured I’d stop by this room on my way out, but I needed to explore the rest of the market!

As I made it towards the back of the store, I really didn’t know how this whole thing worked. I saw the prepared foods counter (pictured above) but there were too many people in front that I couldn’t really make my way in to see what was actually in the case! I scanned the aisles in the center of the store with the canned goods (imported tomatoes, olive oils, etc.etc. YUMM), but I kept bumping in to people and was afraid I’d knock something over and break it! So, I went further back to where it seemed a little less crowded. I went around and off to my left, and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the freshly made pasta. There was a row of freshly made LOBSTER MANICOTTI. OMG. Unfortunately, it was like $12/lb and I didn’t bring a cooler with me in my car. (excuses, excuses). I’ll be prepared next time!

I cut to the opposite side of the building and caught sight of what I was looking for: the bakery, the gelato bar, and the coffee bar!

So many yummy things on this side of the market!! I thought about getting a gelato, but I wasn’t really in an ice creamy kinda mood. What I WAS in the mood for was a cannoli!! You can’t go wrong with a cannoli at an Italian market, right?

I grabbed a number, and a few minutes later, I had a cannoli on a small tray, ready to be eaten! I had to ask the lady where to pay, because I wasn’t sure what to do next! She said, “You pay where you eat.” Um, Ok. So, I figured I’d grab a seat at the coffee bar and enjoy an expresso with my dessert. WRONG. There were zero seats at the coffee bar. Plan B: there’s a semi-outdoor patio; I’ll just sit out there. I grabbed a fun chocolate soda from the cooler by the door leading to the patio, but then I saw the sign that said you can’t pay out there, and you need to check out else where. DOH! So, I trekked to the front of the store with my cannoli and soda in hand, and stood in the check out line. As I was in line, I finally had a chance to stop and take it all in. This place actually had some really cool decorations. There were Vespas on display up high, and black and white photos all over the walls behind the cashiers. Pretty neat stuff.

After I had finally checked out, I went outside to sit at a picnic table and enjoy my cannoli.

It was DELECTABLE!!!!!! Unfortunately, I had to scarf it down because it was starting to rain. I ran to my car, and then the skies opened up. Though it was incredibly crowded, I certainly enjoyed the experience. Believe me, I WILL be back. And now that I at least sort of know what to expect, I can go in a be a bit more bold. Maybe I’ll even take home some of that manicotti!

I had a not so fun drive home in the rain and enjoyed a relaxing evening at home because I had an early wake up call on Sunday for Iron Girl!

I got up at 5:45am so I could be at the course by 6:45. I was signed up to be a “course marshall” which basically meant that I stood at a corner and told the girls to turn so they stayed on course. I personally know how much it sucks to go off course, so I gladly took my place at the corner of Chesnut and Palm, rattled my cowbell, and made sure everyone turned where they should.

It was so inspiring watching women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and colors running together. Everyone had trained hard and was here to see their hard work pay off. I didn’t know the reasons why people were running; I didn’t know if it was their first 5K or their 15th half marathon. But everyone was there, smiling (maybe becuase I was at mile 1? 😉 ) and making it happen.

I always get excited when I watch people race, and today I left with that “warm and fuzzy” feeling. I’m going to take that feeling with me to Nashville, and get excited on that starting line. I can do anything I put my mind to, just like all of those ladies today. Bring it on Nashville!!

On a somewhat unrelated note, if you’re in the DC/VA area on April 28th and you’re looking for a race, check out the Run for Shelter 10K – The race to end homelessness. It’s for a great cause and right now, there’s a Schwaggle deal for 40% off registration!