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Myriad dried pastas and jars of marinated vegetables are among the provisions lining the tightly packed shelves at E. 48th Street Market in Dunwoody. The freezers are stuffed with Italian staples, like ravioli and bolognese sauce, while cases offer deli meats and Italian cookies by the pound. But the real siren call at this family-owned and operated Italian market on Jett Ferry Road comes from the made-to-order sandwiches found in the back of the shop.
There are 26 sandwiches on the menu, and each one is served on thick Italian bread. The meatball sub tends to be the most popular, says owner Charlie Augello, but the Stoffato (aka the #7), does pretty well for itself, too. A combination of mortadella, capicola, provolone, lettuce, and special sauce, it’s hearty and spicy. Aguello’s favorite sandwich is a combo of mortadella, black pepper, olive oil, and sharp provolone cheese. “That’s off menu,” he says.
If you visit the market on weekdays during lunchtime, you’ll find packed patio tables up front and organized chaos inside as people wind their way through the store to buy a sandwich — and maybe a cannoli.
One of those sandwich loyalists is Billy Kramer, owner of wildly popular NFA Burger and a longtime Dunwoody resident. There are two types of people who grind his gears when it comes to E. 48th Street’s sandwiches: those who live in Dunwoody and haven’t been to the market and those who’d rather get a sub from a chain like Jimmy John’s.
“I’m like, ‘you know, you could just go there?’” says Kramer. “It’s not like getting a hoagie here is crazy expensive. It’s authentic. It’s made by people who grew up eating these things in New York.”
Kramer himself first stumbled upon the market in 1998 when the South Jersey native had a hankering for a veal parmigiana sandwich. He ate at E. 48th Street Market nearly every day, ordering the veal parmigiana without fail.
Dunwoody is a fast-growing suburb 11 miles north of Atlanta, with new developments like Ashford Lane popping up and attracting chains such as Jeni’s Ice Creams, Sweetgreen, and Brown Bag Seafood and big name Atlanta chefs like Ford Fry. Despite the morphing landscape of the once bedroom community, E. 48th Street Market manages to hold on to its cult status in Dunwoody.
“We’re consistent with both pricing and quality. And over the years, we’ve developed the customers that are loyal to us because they know if they’re going to spend money, even in tight economic conditions, they’ll spend it where they feel comfortable,” says Augello.
Augello drew inspiration for E. 48th Street Market from his time growing up in Manhattan, where he met his wife, Anita, in the sixth grade. In 1950s New York, he recalls, fast food wasn’t as pervasive and families shopped directly from butchers and small markets. He worked in electrical engineering for 20 years and when the couple moved to Atlanta, with four kids in tow, and tired of traveling for work, a company merger gave Augello the opportunity to leave the field.
E. 48th Street Market opened in 1986.
In 1980s Atlanta, Italian markets were scarce. The Augellos hoped to make theirs as close to the real deal as possible. When the market opened, it sold fresh mozzarella, bread baked on premises, house-made sausages, and a collection of Italian provisions. There was no seating at the time — it was just takeout and a grocery store. Even without Instagram to help spread the word, news quickly made the rounds in Dunwoody about the well-stocked Italian market now open in the community. Cultural shifts, especially in food, during this period also gave the market a boost.
“It was at a critical time of Atlanta growing and also the food business,” says Augello. “Food shows started to get on TV, so that helped. It exposed the different products to people that might not have heard it before.”
Dual income households were also on the rise in the 1980s and early 1990s, so the market offered prepared foods people could easily grab after work. In an era of lighter traffic in metro Atlanta, people were happy to drive 20 or 30 miles for imported Italian items from the motherland, he says.
But Augello has tried to stay nimble and streamline the business over the past 36 years since the market first opened. Bread is no longer made in house, and neither is the pasta. “It’s our recipe, so it’s still consistently the same product,” says Augello. The Italian baked goods, including tender and lemony anginetti cookies, are still baked on site. The butter cookies are made with 100-percent real butter, not a Crisco hybrid, he says. And there are pizzas.
All of his kids have been involved with the business at some point, and his daughter, Andrea, now runs E. 48th Street Market for the family. Augello oversees the wine program. He didn’t know much about wine before they introduced it to the market, but he learned quickly.
“Initially, I enjoyed wine, but it was red and white, I didn’t care. Now I know a lot about Italian wines,” he says.
For Kramer, having E. 48th Street Market in Dunwoody is more important to him today than it was when he first discovered it back in 1998. The chains are moving in, and locally-owned businesses and restaurants like NFA Burger and E. 48th Street Market will continue feeling the squeeze.
“As long as this can hold on, you’ll never see me eating a sandwich in Dunwoody somewhere else,” says Kramer.
E. 48th Street Market open Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
2462 Jett Ferry Road, Dunwoody. e48thstreetmarket.com.
Lia Picard (@helloitsliapicard) is a lifestyle writer who has called Atlanta home for nearly a decade. Her work frequently appears in Atlanta magazine, the New York Times, Eater, and Garden & Gun, among other publications.