I rarely buy prepared foods. I was 27 when I had my first (and last) microwave dinner. I can count on one hand the times that I’ve purchased a frozen pizza. My parents were organic before it was cool, so I didn’t grow up on Pop-Tarts and Cheetos. Instead, Mom and Dad served us homegrown potatoes, fresh sausage from a local butcher, and homemade jelly. As an adult in my own kitchen, I’ve adopted their fresh-as-possible cooking mantra.
So, I felt a little sheepish picking up the phone to order my first prepared dinner from Spinelli’s Market, a family-run grocer and deli in Park Hill. My parents were coming to town, I was on deadline, and there wasn’t time to throw together a salad, let alone cook a meal. Three people had recommended Spinelli’s cooked-so-you-don’t-have-to entrées as their go-to budget meal option. It felt like cheating, but I needed the help.
One of the owners, Mary Ellen Spinelli, talked me through my concerns. Yes, the meals were prepared on-site. No, the dishes weren’t frozen. Yes, the entrées (which average about $13) can feed two people. I pushed out my order in one breath—braised ribs and chicken cordon bleu—and hung up.
The next day I stopped by to pick up my order. Once home, I stuck the meals in the oven, set the timer, and crossed my fingers. Half an hour later, my parents and I sat down for a family-style meal. The short ribs were tender; the chicken cordon bleu was crunchy on the outside and melted cheesy goodness on the inside. We ate every last Brussels sprout. The meal tasted fresh and homemade—without any of the effort.
I began perusing Spinelli’s other choices for the month. The menu offers two options three times a week that are available for pickup after 5:30 p.m. I pulled out my calendar and began to match the menu with days that I knew I’d be too busy to cook. Perhaps I could pick up the ravioli smothered in a mushroom cream sauce and served with peas and pancetta. Or the étouffée. Or more cordon bleu. As my wish list grew, I realized that even though Spinelli’s meals may be cheating, well, who cares? Certainly not me. 4621 E. 23rd Ave., 303-329-8143, spinellismarket.com