Sizzle Simmer Sauté – Sofo’s reopens with brighter, more open design

Jennifer Ruple

The Sofo family began a new chapter in its history of providing fine Italian foods with the grand reopening of its Italian Market on Thursday, Aug. 1. The 8,000 square foot store, located at 5400 Monroe St., was closed on May 28 to undergo a major overhaul by Midwest Contracting Inc. “We did not expand the store, but we completely gutted and reconfigured it,” said Christopher Sofo, marketing manager at Sofo Foods.
Upon entering the market’s atrium, customers are greeted by decorative elements such as black shutters and wainscoting. “We added details that are similar to what you’d see in Italy, trying to give you the feeling that you are walking into a piece of Italy,” said Sofo. The market has a fresh, modern feel with touches of old-world charm throughout. “The whole family played a role in the design of the new space. It was like decorating a home,” he added.
The Sofo family entered into the retail business in 1949 when Antonio Sofo, his wife, Carmella, and their son, Joe, opened Antonio Sofo and Son on the 2300 block of Monroe Street in downtown Toledo. As the company grew, another move was necessary and Sofo’s was relocated to 3253 Monroe St., near Swayne Field. The store was moved to its current location in 1985 and underwent a substantial renovation in 2007.
Several goals drove the need for the current renovation. “We wanted to create a unique shopping experience that was different than any other area store. Our new cases are sleeker and don’t take up as much space. They hold just as much food, or more, and we now have wider aisles,” explained Sofo. “We took out the clutter and removed products that did not sell well and are dialing in on products that people really like. We thought, let’s stick to things we do well, such as our deli and wine area. Let’s expand on that,” he remarked.

Advice from the Masters
To enhance the shopping experience at Sofo’s further, customers will have the opportunity to speak with experts in each of the store’s departments. “We have what we call masters of each category who can help customers,” said Sofo. “For example, we have masters of cheese, olive oil, produce, coffee, olives, wine, bakery and deli. We have a lot of brands people don’t recognize because they are imported and not offered at any other local store. They are all buyers for each department, and the people who work underneath them are on their way to that master position,” he explained.

A mural on the wall is a new feature at the renovated Sofo’s Italian Market. The caption reads: Joe Sofo Sr. with his sister Connie (Sofo) Peer at the old market location on 3253 Monroe St. near Downtown Toledo.

What’s in Store
Il Caffe
Located in the market’s atrium is Il Caffe (the café) where customers can sit and enjoy coffee, gelato, bakery items, and hot or cold sandwiches from the deli. On the menu are Italian sausage sandwiches and a spicy signature sandwich that includes three Italian meats – soppressata, hot salami, prosciuttini – served on crusty Italian bread with roasted red pepper and Sofo’s signature sauce. The popular weekly wine tasting events will resume on Wednesday, Aug. 7 from 5 to 7 pm, and will also be held in the café.

Sofo explained that the increase of square footage of the deli counter will allow for more premium meat selections including sausages, more domestic products like turkeys and hams, and more imported deli meats such as mortadella. “We have 20 feet of cheese at the end of the counter.”

“We are working with Rocky Produce at the Detroit Produce Terminal to take our produce to another level,” said Sofo. “This will help us bring in more seasonal ingredients and you will find Italian produce such as mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, basil, garlic, peppers, eggplant and squash.”

In the bakery, shoppers will find an array of breads, cookies, cakes, specialty desserts such as Limoncello Mascarpone cake, plus traditional Italian treats including tiramisu and walnut and chocolate chip cannoli. “We will be increasing our variety of cannoli and adding more flavors. We are also adding a gluten free section, including brownies,” said Sofo.

Salad Bar
The salad bar has been redone and incorporates several varieties of olives and fresh homemade salads and spreads including tortellini, chicken and potato salads, meat with pasta salads and spreads for sandwiches and bruschetta.

Frozen Foods
All of Sofo’s frozen favorites are back including ravioli, tortellini, lasagna and meatballs. Plus, PanaPesca seafood products such as octopus, mussels and shrimp are available.

Wine Department
An entire aisle of wine includes domestic wines and increased offerings of imported wines from Spain, France, Germany, Italy and South America.

Prepared Foods
The prepared food area has everything needed to build your own pizzas, plus heat and eat pasta dishes and Stromboli. “We are adding an all-natural line of pizza toppings, and cauliflower and gluten free crust options,” offered Sofo.

For more information about Sofo’s Italian Market, visit the company’s new website,

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