Friday, December 29 2023 9:15

Ready-Made Meals

Written by Shannon Montgomery

Let someone else cook dinner tonight

Meal planning can be stressful. From choosing what to make, balancing family members’ dietary requirements and preferences, and getting all the ingredients from the grocery store to actually cooking and serving the meal, the whole process can be a real chore. And with the hectic, food-filled holiday season behind us, many of us are in dire need of a break from the kitchen.

Fortunately, many of our local markets and restaurants are more than willing to take meal-prep off your plate. Whether you’re hosting guests or just need an easy weeknight dinner, these food purveyors are sure to please.

So, skip the grocery store — or the fast-food drive-thru — and let someone else make dinner tonight. All you need to do is heat, serve and enjoy.

In the Mood for Italian

For many families, spaghetti and meatballs is a dinnertime staple. Why not elevate your Italian meals with a little help from the pros? Several local Italian markets and restaurants offer family dinners, many with recipes passed down from their famiglia. From hearty pasta dishes to chicken and veal, a meal prepared by one of these local businesses is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Carlino’s Market

For gourmet Italian fare, head to Carlino’s Market, with locations in West Chester and Ardmore. In addition to dried pasta, sauces and other artisan goods, they offer gourmet take-away meals. Led by master executive chefs, the Carlino’s kitchen uses high-quality ingredients in their delicious family dinners. Try the award-winning Mama Carlino’s chicken lasagna, meatballs with house-made pasta, chicken piccata, veal parmigiano and much more. Then pair with a scrumptious side — creamy risotto, broccoli rabe, pasta salad — and artisan bread and desserts for an elevated dinner experience. Plus, Carlino’s offers in-store pickup, local delivery and overnight shipping, so there are plenty of ways to get your fill.

Di Bruno Bros.

Alternatively, Wayne’s Di Bruno Bros. location is another one-stop shop for a winning dinner. Their Chef’s Counter offers chef-prepared meals made from scratch daily. Using fresh, seasonal ingredients, they offer restaurant-quality dinners for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. Select from several tempting options, including chicken parmigiano, Italian-style sausage and peppers, herb-dusted salmon, lump crab cakes, pasta primavera and rigatoni with Sunday gravy. To complete your meal, pick up sides, artisan bread, fresh-baked pastries and desserts in the market, then head to the Bottle Shop for wine, craft beer, mixers and mocktails.

In Media, DiFabio’s Market & Tap offers fresh, house-made entrees, pizzas and sides, as well as a daily family dinner special. With options to serve four or six people, the dinner comes with an entree, Caesar or garden salad, and a loaf of Italian bread. Entree selections change daily, but recent dishes include prime rib with candied sweet potatoes, stuffed shells in tomato cream sauce, and chicken parmesan over penne. While you’re there, pick up cold beer or a bottle of wine to take your dinner to the next level.

Limoncello Ristorante

Love the food from Limoncello Ristorante, but not in the mood to go out? Both their West Chester and Chester Springs locations offer family-style four-course dinners, Tuesday through Sunday from 12 to 9 p.m. For $65, you’ll get dinner for five (some say more), along with homemade bread and tomato bruschetta. Choose a salad, pasta (penne alla vodka, three-cheese baked rigatoni, cheese tortellini alfredo), an entree (Maria’s meatballs or eggplant parmigiana, or several others for an additional cost) and a dessert (flourless chocolate torte, cannoli, tiramisu). Limoncello offers curbside takeout and delivery — making it even more convenient.

Head to the Market

Our area is chock-full of local markets offering a wide selection of delicious dinners. Savor traditional Amish fare, the tastes of Latin America and the Far East, and much more — all without leaving the Brandywine Valley!

V Empanadas at the Lancaster County Farmers Market

Make your way to Wayne for provisions from the Lancaster County Farmers Market, open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. In addition to fresh produce, meats, seafood and cheeses, you’ll find several purveyors of ready-made meals. Countryview Barbecue’s selections include smoked babyback ribs, fried chicken, rotisserie meats and veggies, as well as soups, salads and sides using traditional Lancaster recipes (Amish macaroni salad, mashed potatoes and gravy). Craving something else? Local favorite Margaret Kuo’s offers their award-winning Asian specialties, all freshly cooked and prepacked. And V Empanadas promises the tastes of Ecuador with their sweet and savory empanadas, plus fresh shrimp and fish ceviche, homemade sauces and exotic fruit desserts.

Jarlan’s Poultry at the Westtown Amish Market

Similarly, the Westtown Amish Market, open Thursday to Saturday, is home to more than 15 merchants, selling everything from food to furniture to pet supplies. Stop by Jarlan’s Poultry for all-natural goodness, no hormones or antibiotics. Choose from rotisserie chicken, smoked ribs, wings, fried chicken, homemade turkey sausages and dinner platters. Complement your meal with goodies from other vendors — including fresh salads, baked goods (how about a whoopie pie?) and Amish pretzels.

Over in Phoenixville, you’ll find that Foresta’s Market has more than just a butcher shop and deli meats. Their HMR (home meal replacement) case has a large selection of cooked foods, all made in house. Foresta’s meal options span the globe — from American (meatloaf, mac and cheese) and Mexican (taco lasagna, mini burritos) to Italian (linguini and clam sauce, breaded chicken cutlets) and Chinese (General Tso’s chicken, pork lo mein) — plus seafood and desserts.

Across the state line in Delaware, Janssen’s Market has been a Greenville staple for over 70 years, specializing in gourmet foods with a broad selection of organic, gluten-free and vegan fare. Their Chef’s Du Jour Menu offers a selection of heat-and-serve dishes that, as the name implies, changes daily. Recent entrees include hearty meals like sundried tomato chicken, herb-roasted turkey, Hungarian goulash, Chesapeake shrimp and wild mushroom ravioli, as well as sides, salads and desserts.


This New Year, resolve to eat well — while avoiding mealtime stress and cooking less. With so many excellent options for ready-made meals, you can rest easy knowing that dinner is taken care of tonight, along with most of the clean up. Bon appetit!