Central Market in York is buzzing this time of the year with vendors offering fresh, local produce. It's the place to pick up lunch, dine al fresco in Cherry Lane and listen to live music.
But it's also where you can unwind and find authentic Italian cuisine.
Mezzogiorno is nestled in a corner of the market, near the Philadelphia Street entrance, offering waited tables and a U-shaped counter. Its light blue and yellow color scheme lured me in one Tuesday for lunch.
I stepped up to the counter to order the Pears and Gorgonzola Salad, $6.95, and a cup of the soup of the day — a vegetable, meat and bean medley, $3.95 — to go.
When I visit restaurants, I try to stay under the radar, but friendly Mezzogiorno owner Tim Spangler called me out right away when he heard me order. Still, I'd like to think I received the same service as any other customer.
I waited at the counter for my grub and took in the scenery of the restaurant.
Waitresses and cooks hustle here during the lunch hour. Staff rings a bell every time an order is up. A regular talks with Spangler about his recent vacation as I gaze at the artwork surrounding the top of the eatery.
Later, Spangler told me local artist Bob Miller painted most of the pieces, which feature staff, customers, and even Spangler's mother and daughter.
A former server painted a mural above the kitchen, Spangler said.
When my order was up, I took it to Cherry Lane so I could soak up some sunshine and listen to a keyboardist and violinist.
The soup was perfectly light for the summer with a tomato base. The salad stood out with pear slices, crumbled gorgonzola, hunks of smoked bacon and red onion, all served on a bed of mixed greens with a flavorful dark balsamic dressing.
Spangler said all of the dressings are homemade. Other intriguing salads range from Grilled Lemon Chicken to Roasted Beet and Walnut, and Caprese.
Mezzogiorno also offers nearly 25 sandwiches, including several panini and subs.
Spangler said he took over the business about five and a half years ago, changing the menu a couple times since.
In fact, a new menu featuring pizza should be rolling out soon, Spangler said.
And unlike most vendors at the market, Mezzogiorno is open Tuesday through Sunday. Lunch specials are offered weekly, as are weekend breakfast specials (the Chicken Curry Scramble, Turtle Toast and Caramello Waffles intrigue me enough to come back for a weekend breakfast). Only breakfast is served on Sundays.
Another reason to appreciate Mezzogiorno is its Friday night dinners offered once a month. These dinners are reserved seating only; the dates and menus are posted on Mezzogiorno's website. In July, entrees ranged from Caprese Chicken Roulade to Peppercorn Shrimp Dijonnaisse. Appetizers and desserts are served, too. Cinnamon Crumble Gelato, Olive Oil Cake with Amaretto Cake, Cannoli with Dried Pear and Blueberry Ricotta — all sounded mouth-watering.
Spangler said he acquired Mezzogiorno after he faced unemployment in the corporate food service world during the recession. He's learned a lot about being a small business owner since then.
"It's not a job that you work, it's a life you live," Spangler said.
It's a business Spangler's grown since his ownership -— in addition to Central Market, Mezzogiorno now operates the picnic pavilion at Santander Stadium and also caters events.
If you go
Location: Central Market House, 34 W. Philadelphia St., York
Jess' pick: Pears and Gorgonzola Salad, $6.95; cup of soup of the day, $3.95
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; Friday night dinners held once a month – see website for details
Price range: $1, One Egg; $24.95, Seafood Fradiavolo with Peppercorn Linguini
Alcohol: BYOB during Friday night dinners
Accepts: Cash and credit ($5 minimum for credit)
Kid's menu: Yes
Details: Call 717-848-5822 or search for Mezzogiorno on Facebook