Growing up in an Italian neighborhood in Union City, we had five Italian delicatessens or stores around our house. They would compete with each other for the neighborhood.

When we moved to Marlboro in the 1970s, I really missed all those great Italian delicacies. Now Marlboro has Tuscany Italian Market and so does Manalapan and Freehold.

Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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Tuscany has been around since 1997. The idea came when owner Vinny LaFranca came to New Jersey and realized there was no real Italian food here just some sort of imitation,

Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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"We opened a little shop in Manalapan at 1,800 square feet and now 26 years later it's a legacy. If you ask anyone, 'who's the mayor?' They don't know. But if you ask, 'who's Vinny Tuscany?' Everybody knows."

Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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"Tuscany is all about quality, not quantity," says LaFranca. "Tuscany prepared dishes are 90% family recipes that through the years have been molded for the fresh palates of a new generation. But at the end of the day, it's grandma's recipe from the old world."

Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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What sets Tuscany apart from all the other Italian stores in the area?

"Quality, sincerity and honesty and the items that we make like fresh ricotta that's well known through the entire state, and mozzarella made daily two to three times a day. Our Soppressada and dry sausage with no chemicals. We make it all here and that's what sets us apart."

Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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"Tuscany's meats are USDA-approved prime choice and freshly cut. Prime number 1. They have an incredible boneless rib eye from Ireland."

I asked Vinny about the Tuscany experience

"When I think in business I think like a customer and when I make decisions I make them as a customer. If I was a customer at Tuscany, what would I like? So what would I like as a customer? Decent service, the best quality, and fair price. That's what sets Tuscany outside. A decent price for the quality we sell and nobody can beat it. Other people preach one thing and give you another; we don't do that. If we sell it as prime meat, it is prime meat. You may pay a premium price but it's a premium piece of meat".

Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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Photo by Steve Trevelise
Photo by Steve Trevelise
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I don't care where you're from or what you know as an Italian store. You need to visit any of the three Tuscany locations. They will definitely change your perspective. Do yourself a favor and your guests as well, have Tuscony cater your party. It will definitely be worth it!

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.

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