This article originally appeared in the 2010 edition of “Taste,” the guide to fine dining in Broward and the Palm Beaches published annually by New Times for which I wrote all the editorial. To read the rest of my pieces in the 2010 edition, select the Taste category at the top or bottom of this article.
Walk into The Green Gourmet, Joey Giannuzzi’s gourmet prepared foods market and café in Delray Beach, and you’ll know immediately that chef/owner Giannuzzi takes the name of his new place seriously. Lighting made from the amber lenses of recycled street lights illuminate a case stocked with freshly made organic salads and lunch dishes. A large recycled glass container filled with complimentary fresh fruit-infused water sits on a counter made from recycled glass and sand.
Sustainable materials eucalyptus and teak are used in the tables and chairs, which are bookended by two wooden carts displaying the fresh local organic produce that they’ve started carrying in response to customer requests. Take-home containers made from biodegradable corn resin are stacked near the register.
The menu lists four made-daily soups, including a rich tomato that has only four ingredients, an array of salads, sandwiches, and sides. All of the produce is fresh, organic, and, when at all possible, locally grown. Meat eaters can stop panicking here and now: there’s a full selection of proteins available as well, including turkey meatloaf, marinated skirt steak, wild-caught shrimp, organic salmon, and moist chicken meatballs. And that’s just today’s menu.
“We don’t know what we’re going to have every day,” says Giannuzzi, “because what our organics purveyor has changes regularly. But that keeps it exciting and fun, creating new dishes based on what’s fresh. Today we made a parsnip and sweet potato hash that’s just delicious – it’s like a mushroom cloud of flavor on your tongue. But,” he adds, “we don’t need to do a lot to the food. What we get here is so fresh, and so high quality, it really stands on its own beautifully.”
The Green Gourmet opened late last year, when Giannuzzi left his executive chef gig at Henry’s in Delray Beach with an idea to create a place for people to purchase freshly prepared comfort foods made with local and organic ingredients or, in Giannuzzi’s words, “a food sanctuary.”
It was surfing, though, that originally pushed Giannuzzi into the kitchen. He’d moved to Wellington as a child, and had fallen hard for the sport. At 16, with the strict requirement that he be at the beach when it was pumping, there was about one option for him, work-wise.
“I tell people all the time,” he says, “that it was surfing that got me into cooking. I could surf all day, and then head into work every evening.”
Sometimes luck plays out funny: as it turned out, the guy loved to cook and quickly figured out what he wanted to be doing when he wasn’t getting wet. He worked his way up through some award-winning South Florida restaurants before landing at Henry’s, which led to the idea for The Green Gourmet.
“I started working with organic produce a few years ago, and found that it just tasted better to me. Plus the health benefits are great, and that drove the entire concept behind opening this place,” he explains.
A concept that includes making customers feel comfortable and welcome. A diner who mentions that they like the flavor of the vegan split pea soup will likely as not get a quick cooking lesson from Giannuzzi, learning that after weeks of trial and error he hit upon the idea to use mint to replace the flavor of pork.
Thus far, Giannuzzi’s concept has been working, and lunch has been popular enough that they’ve recently added dinner table service.
“We dim the lights, lay out tablecloths, and do five specials a night based on what we get fresh that day, like pomegranate-glazed wild-caught salmon with couscous, things like that,” says Giannuzzi. “And we just started hosting a farmers’ market out front on Sundays starting at 8 AM, with fresh, local organic produce and other local goods.”
The Green Gourmet makes it easy to stop in and grab some fresh, organic, healthy prepared foods to take home or on a trip to the beach, but do yourself a favor: even if you’re in a hurry, take a moment, sit down, and try something new. Talk to Giannuzzi or his staff and take a few suggestions.
“We’ve had meat and potato guys in here begrudgingly try the cauliflower, or the fresh hummus, or the eggplant mash, and love it, which is awesome,” says Giannuzzi. He pauses for a moment then adds, “We’re having so much fun here.”
Go figure: even when he’s not surfing.
The Green Gourmet is located in the Shoppes at Addison Place, 16950 Jog Road, Delray Beach. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 11 AM to 9 PM, and Sunday from 12 Noon to 5 PM. Call 561-455-2466 or hit www.thegreengourmetdelray.com for more information.