Entering this maze of produce on a weekend feels like a whole different kind of Great Adventure. Viccuria Market (2275 86th Street) is an amusement park in its own right. The excitement begins with the smell of fresh vegetables, sawdust, meat and bleach as you enter the store. This produce park is like a roller coaster filled with fancy dates, Irish Soda Bread (with an English and Russian label) and a top-shelf pickle bar.
When rolling up to Viccuria’s pickle bar, one pickle that shouts out to you is the hot peppers stuffed with bread crumbs. Resting on the top row of the olive and pickle bar, the stuffed hot peppers gives the impression that it is meant for a higher class of customer. At $7.49 a pound, this isn’t your grandma’s shtetle pickle, this is a 21st Century pickle. This marinated pepper would be the choice of royalty, diplomats and anyone with a Lexus SUV.
The great ball of greasiness clearly comes from another planet. It stares at all customers with an alien, foreign-like shape that reminds this reviewer of baby gremlins. The pepper could have made an appearance with the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew, manifesting itself on the top of Captain Jean Luc Picard’s clean and shiny head. It would be eaten during times of great duress, like when the Klingons try to take over L&B’s.
My pickle partner and I were not in search of the final frontier, but more so a final snack of summer. A tribute to all the great tastes of July and August. Since this reviewer does his best to reduce, reuse, recycle, and rebuff, we brought our own plastic containers for the pickles and the staff at Viccuria was very receptive and helpful. The pickles needed to be weighed by the fancy deli staff. Our helper, decked out in black chef’s jacket and black chef’s hat that would allow him to fit in with Parisian literati, the prospect park drum circle crowd or an old school Black Panther Party party, was super friendly. He measured the pickles and even subtracted an estimated weight of the containers from the price.
The stuffed hot peppers were the first pickles we sampled. We let our hands explore the oily goodness of the pepper. My taste buds opened to spicy blend of salt and sour that brought up images of an old world grandma with a new pickle stand at the Barclay’s Center. Whoever she is, she sure knows her bread crumbs. The filling was sweet, salty and bready – like a pierogi from heaven.
We licked our fingers clean of the greasy, oily and beautiful taste. We silently thanked grandmas everywhere for their breadcrumbin’ and picklin’ skills. We hopped into the Lexus SUV and drove off into the end of our salty summer frontier.
The hot pepper made me feel safe and loved. It helped heal my lost kid trauma suffered in the husky section of the Alexander’s Department store in Kings Plaza, 1986. If only I had been lost with these Grandma Stuffed Peppers, with their top shelf of the old world quality, I may have turned out okay.
Viccuria, 2275 86th Street, (718) 331-0100.
Is there a restaurant or specific dish you think we should check out? Let us know!