For the past few weeks, people have been knocking on the electronic sliding-glass doors at 155 N. County Road.
With palpable anticipation, they’ve all asked the same question.
“Are you open yet?”
Earlier this week, the answer became resoundingly affirmative.
Since then, Palm Beach’s newest gourmet grocer and fine-food emporium has been bustling as patrons fill their carts with everything from Heinz ketchup to hormone-free grass-fed beef, smoked salmon, Cipriani bellini mix and cucumber-and-tomato salad.
Amici Market — with its tastefully simple red, green and white logo centered with a ruby-red tomato image — opened Tuesday, occupying approximately 5,700 square feet formerly home to Market Salamander and before that, Herbert’s Lafayette.
It’s the next business chapter in the life of longtime, charismatic Palm Beach restaurateur Maurizio Ciminella.
“This transition from the restaurant business makes sense for a lot of reasons,” said Ciminella, whose partner in the new venture is Palm Beach businessman and Broadway producer Bob Cuillo.
“I love Palm Beach and I love good food and wine, and Amici Market connects with all of that. Plus, I now have more time to spend with my family, which is very important to me,” said the father of three children. “I’ll be home at 9 every night instead of 2 a.m., and I will be able to spend holidays with my kids.”
Amici Market takes its name from the popular Palm Beach restaurant Ciminella operated for 16 years.
In fact, Amici Ristorante has a presence in the market.
Offerings include packaged and bottled fresh pastas and sauces that were popular at the restaurant, and Amici Ristorante’s chef for many years, Johnny Contreras, is on board, creating daily-changing prepared foods and meals to-go.
“Amici Market has something for everybody, whether you’re looking for Hellman’s mayonnaise, high-end caviar, prepared foods or fresh fish,” Ciminella said. “We are gourmet, but that doesn’t mean everything is expensive or exclusive.”
The store is similar in concept to Joseph’s Classic Market in Palm Beach Gardens and Carmine’s in North Palm Beach, but with additional features such as a display where shoppers can watch chefs at work, perhaps preparing a dinner-to-go for two for $14.99.
Along the establishment’s interior Tuscan-hued perimeter are organic and non-organic produce, meat, seafood, wine, bakery, deli and prepared-food departments.
Poultry? A choice of Bell & Evans, Perdue and kosher chickens.
Fish? The selection ranges from locally line-caught snapper to Mediterranean branzino.
“The seafood comes in fresh daily and if we don’t have what you want, give me 24 hours and I’ll get it for you,” Ciminella said.
Displays, aisles and shelves house everything from dairy products and chocolates to gluten-free crackers, olive oils, vinegars and dried goods, such as Arborio rice, risotto, faro and polenta.
Other areas feature pizza sold by the slice or pie, and sandwiches made to order. There’s even a section with household and convenience items, such as bathroom tissue and batteries.
The shopping experience is enhanced by piped-in background music and food and wine videos playing on three ceiling-mounted large-screen TVs.
Outside, flanking the parking lot, a small patio beckons with a few outdoor tables. Nearby is a compact delivery minivan you’d expect to see zipping around Rome.
“There’s definitely a demand for a business like this in Palm Beach,” said Laurel Baker, director of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce. “But what’s perhaps most important is that it’s owned and operated by a businessman who’s well known and so well-liked. That makes all the difference.”
Amici Market’s delivery services, which will be available by next week, are among perks Ciminella said sets the market apart from its chief competition — grocery-store chain Publix, with its Palm Beach location on Sunset Avenue.
“Anything we sell that Publix sells is competitively priced,” said Ciminella, pointing to single-serving bottles of Arizona-brand flavored tea as an example.
Publix, the main grocery store on the island for 40 years, will close in April for several months during the construction of a new and larger store nearby. During that time, Amici Market stands to gain additional traction.
“In real estate, the old adage is location, location, location,” Baker said. “In this case, it’s timing, timing, timing. I think he [Ciminella] has hit it just right.”