Delco Profile: Jack Cunicelli, 320 Market Cafe
September 27th, 2019
When we think of 320 Market Cafe, we think of two family-owned markets and their fresh salads, sandwiches, burgers, cheeses, antipasto, signature pico de gallo — the works! Both markets are also known for an eye-opening selection of craft beer, plus unique, natural wines.
Yes, natural, carefully selected by co-owner Jack Cunicelli. He co-owns 320 Market Cafe with his brother, David Cunicelli. They opened the Media location in 2011, 20 years after their father, Pete, opened the Swarthmore market.
“My father passed away in 1996,” Jack said. “At the time, I was planning on attending culinary school in New York. When he died suddenly, my plans changed in an instant. I decided to stay, join 320 full time and open the sandwich shop and deli. When my dad opened in Swarthmore in 1991, I was really excited and couldn’t wait to work there. I was in high school at the time, so I was a clerk stocking produce and cleaning up.”
Cunicelli has come a long way since then! We caught up with him, and learned more about him and his popular natural wines program.
Visit Delco, PA: Why specialize in natural wines?
Jack Cunicelli: For me, process is everything. Natural wine gives me a way to express my love of organic and sustainable farming, and the simple pleasure of wine made without additives. I also firmly believe that our choices are important, and that working with nature to grow and make smart wine-making decisions means we’re drinking wine made with integrity. That has a positive impact on the planet and the communities we live in.
What qualifies a wine as natural?
Wine made from hand-harvested organic grapes, fermented with native yeast, made in a neutral vessel, like stainless steel, concrete or used barrels, with minimal sulfites and no fining or heavy filtration. It’s wine made without using colors, stabilizers, cultivated yeast, sugars, acids, etc. Basically — naturally fermented grape juice! The wines tend to express a lot more vintage variation and a better sense of place when they’re made that way.
You have a cheesemaking certification from University of Vermont, and you did the advanced wine program at the Wine School of Philadelphia. How has that had an impact on what’s available at 320?
They’ve had a huge impact. Before there was wine, cheese was an obsession for me. I applied the same low-intervention principles to our cheese program as I do the wine program. Then, my advanced somm certification gave me the confidence to hit the ground running when Pennsylvania changed the law to allow shops like us to retail wine. I’m also the son of a teacher, so I’ve always felt education is always a great investment in ourselves.
Do you also source the beer for 320?
I don’t — that’s handled by our great staff, headed by Matt Harnett. There’s a similar aesthetic of curating from small production, conscientious breweries.
What’s your favorite part about co-owning 320?
The connection to the community. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years — since I was a teenager — and being part of the community and creating a place with my brother that brings the community together has been really fulfilling.
Help us with some advice: So many times diners get “stuck” with, or defer to, a favorite wine. What tip would you give to customers who are looking to pair wine with food?
Don’t be afraid of a balanced, sweet wine. An-off dry Riesling can pair so well with a wide array of foods and create a truly pleasurable experience.
How about beer and food pairings?
Most people think of cheese with wine first, but beer can be an easier pairing. The richness of the cheese, and the slight sweetness the milk gives it, can really pair well with a wide range of beer styles.
What’s your favorite current 320 pairing?
Try Vino Santo (an Italian dessert wine) and chocolate bliss! Or whatever chocolate specialty we have on at the time.
What’s your favorite wine to drink at home?
Bright, fresh white wines — I like them balanced with some richness. A well-aged Chenin Blanc that has seen time on its lees or yeast seems to fit that nicely.
What do you do in your spare time?
I run a lot. It’s moving meditation for me. I just got back from running a half marathon in Santa Fe.
Tell us something that we might not know about you!
I’m vegan. It’s not a secret, but I also don’t walk around telling everyone. I know it’s weird for a somm, but it was only in the last two years I went vegan. So, I have a lifetime of experience eating all foods and never shy away from helping someone pair red meat with the right wine.
Cunicelli lives in Rose Valley with wife, Monica, daughter, Stella, and their adopted greyhound, Gia. He concludes, “I really think my early experience with produce, and working with local family farms, informs my wine-buying decisions. After all, wine is produce in a bottle.”
320 Market Cafe: 713 S. Chester Rd. in Swarthmore, (610) 328-7211; and 211 W. State St. in Media, (610) 565-8320. Hours vary by location, so check the website for the latest.
Want to know more about everything Delco? We’re more than just your source for good eats — we’re your source for where to stay, what to do and more in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We’re the Visit Delco, PA Tourism Bureau, and we’ve got you covered from Philly to the Brandywine. Find us at 1501 N. Providence Rd., Media, PA, 19063; (610) 565-3679 or online.
— Nina Malone
Photos: David Cunicelli, 320 Market Cafe