It was a little disconcerting, yet also somehow comforting when our lunch order was ready for pickup and we heard our hostess’ voice cry out loudly, “Patrick! Are you hungry? Come and get it!”
It was a little like being back in the old country (that is, if I were actually Italian), and hearing your beloved mama’s voice summon you to the dinner table from out the back door of the family casa. It certainly got my attention, and was just one of many charming personal touches that made our visit to Rosa’s Italian Market and Deli an utterly memorable and impressive experience.
We parked next to the converted house across the street from Post Falls’ shiny new City Hall building, and it was immediately clear that owners John and Tina-Marie Schultz put a lot of love into the place. The landscaping is gorgeous, with cheerful flower patches, neatly trimmed rosebushes, and eclectic lawn ornaments.
We stopped on the way in to read a sign explaining the rich history of the Victorian-style house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and was built in 1910 by Samuel and Ann Young.
The elegance continues inside, with classy framed prints of Italian artwork and wooden built-in shelves displaying old family photos. Everything seems set up as to not interfere with the historical vibe of the place, and although the building was likely recently restored, it still feels like an authentic old-school market and deli, with racks and racks of dry pastas, canned sauces, vinegars and European candies surrounding the main dining areas.
The deli case is stuffed full of an unusual selection of cold cuts, such as sopressata, mortadella and hot capocolla, and cheeses such as gorgonzola, and ricotta salatta. Basically, if your recipe calls for some crazy Italian ingredient which ends in the letter “a,” Rosa’s probably has it.
Another display case is stuffed with salacious homemade pastries and dessert items like tiramisu, Napoleons, cassatinas and Sicilian rum cakes. Our eyeballs gained 20 pounds each just gazing at the wonderment of it all. A full menu of real-deal coffee and espresso drinks is also on offer.
Tina-Marie greeted us at the order counter as if we’d been living upstairs for years and had just returned from running an errand. “What can I get you kids today?” she asked, and I was immediately smitten. I’m not exactly approaching senior citizen age or anything, but it’s been quite a while since anyone referred to me as a “kid.” Her demeanor was relaxed and chatty, and when we told her we hadn’t been in before, she filled us in on the essential details of the place – how long they’d been open, and how they’re “famous” for their intense Friday evening dinner specials when they serve classic temptations such as cabbage rolls, manicotti and veal Parmesan.
We stood and checked out the selection of sandwiches and after debating between the eggplant Parmesan, The Sinatra (sopresetta and salami with sun dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella), and Il Padrina (five Italian meats, provolone and roasted red peppers), we both decided on the Chicken Marsala with a cup of a nameless soup made with cabbage, potatoes and onions.
Tina-Marie belted my name and we grabbed our red plastic baskets full of joy, ready to dig in. Their Italian bread rolls seemed still warm from the oven, astoundingly soft and toothsome. The chunks of chicken breast inside were huge and flavorful, sautéed in olive oil and marsala wine and sprinkled with freshly-grated Parmesan. The soup was thick and stunningly tasty considering the simplicity of the ingredients, and the accompanying pack of oyster crackers added the necessary crunch.
We couldn’t help but overhear our neighboring diners, two ladies with thick accents, rave about their cannolis and mini-cups of espresso and announce that they hadn’t enjoyed such a treat since “back East.”
Neither one of us had ever had the pleasure of enjoying an authentic New York Italian deli, but we couldn’t help but agree with the sentiment. With heaps of personality and genuinely delicious cuisine, Rosa’s Market and Deli is one of the finest specimens west of the Mississippi.