TORONTO — After three years of planning and development, the Saks Food Hall by Pusateri’s had its soft opening yesterday. Media were invited to preview the 18,000-sq.-ft. space before it officially opens later this week. The store houses 10 stations featuring charcuterie, panini, a prosciutteria, an oyster bar, a Nutella bar and mounds of retail space highlighting fruits, produce and take-away food.
The company that pioneered gourmet retail food in Toronto more than 30 years ago has spared no expense to outfit a space that shines and sparkles with “the best of the best,” said Frank Luchetta, president of Pusateri’s, who added that store executives travelled throughout Europe, primarily Paris, London and Germany, where food halls have long been fixtures, to source ideas. The store represents the culmination of many years of planning, said Luchetta, and “takes us to a new level.”
Strategic partnerships form a crucial part of the company success, explained Lucchetta, pointing to suppliers such as Niagara’s Pingue Prosciutto and Ferrero Rocher’s Nutella brand as key partners in the new store. The Nutella partnership had to be approved by Ferrero Rocher in Italy before Pusateri’s was able to land the concept. “These two iconic brands together will help us raise the level of foods to a whole new level. It’s really elevated the game,” boasted Luchetta.
Among offerings, John Mastroianni, general manager, told media the company will offer its own house-blend espresso featuring a local roaster; a sushi counter, a first for the company, and a sleek champagne bar where customers will be able to sip bubbly and nosh on charcuterie or take their champagne with them and sip it while they shop.
The new location will also feature “90 per cent of our best sellers from the Avenue Road store,” explained Mastroianni, adding that gluten-free, organic, and natural products will be among its featured lineup. “We even feature unpasteurized honey produced in Ontario from a local producer that only processes several hundred bottles.” The olive-oil section will feature the “best of the best” from Italian producers. “We believe in sampling,” said the general manager. While the store imports some of the best products in the world, Mastroianni also stressed the importance of featuring top local products including bread from Kensington Market’s Blackbird bakery.
While Pusateri’s is known for its fresh produce and meats, the company also offers prepared product, cooked from scratch daily, which consumers can take home or eat at communal tables in the store. But according to Mastroianni, catering is also a big part of its mix. “Our catering business grew by 30 per cent as soon as people heard we were coming to Sherway Gardens.”
Next up for the company is the opening of the downtown Saks Food Hall, which is set for mid-April.