A Night At The Italian Grocery
All good stories start with a trip to the Italian Grocery.
The holidays were over now and when I peered into my refrigerator, I heard an echo. My refrigerator seemed to be saying, “feed me bro,
the larder is empty.” I needed some groceries again. I patted the refrigerator on the side and caught myself quietly reassuring the refrigerator, ok, I’ll take care of it.” I guess I need to get a life if I am chatting with my refrigerator. Well–that’s another story.
I know what readers of this blog are thinking. He is not going AGAIN to the Italian grocery. But, well–yes, I was…
A guy’s gotta eat, right?
I popped into Cash and Carry in Little Italy on a quiet Monday night. I worked through my list. I helped myself to a small tin of caponatina (eggplant relish from Palermo), a jar of basil pesto, some curly ribbon pasta called Margherita–great with pasta aglio e’ olio and pepperoncino–olive oil and garlic and red pepper flakes, a big can of San Marzano tomatoes–for my Sunday sauce–the flavor comes from the volcanic soil in the hills around Naples and a bottle of frizzante (bubbly) Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna.
I asked Eddie behind the counter if he could slice me three quarters of a pound of Mortadella with pistachio. And maybe cut me a chunk of some ricotta salata, the salted dry ricotta that is amazing for grating or eating just like that. “Do you have the Sicilian black olives?” He nodded. I asked if Salvatore the baker brought in some of his famous braided semolina Sicilian bread with sesame (pane trecciata). He pointed to the back shelf. “We got it.” “I’ll need some anchovies too–maybe just four please, and maybe some of the sweet fennel flecked Italian sausage. Did they make it fresh over the weekend?” He said. “of course.” “Alright, give me six links please if you would. Throw in a few of the tetu’s.” These are the old school Sicilian cookies, made with a heavy dose of cocoa, vanilla, walnuts, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Eddie–was smiling. “What else Anthony?” “I think that will do it, I said.”
He wrapped all up, bagged it in a paper bag. I asked if I owed him for the paper bag as they now charge for these in CA. He shook his head as if to say, don’t worry about it.
As I fumbled for some cash, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was a really tall guy in his mid 60’s with sandy grey flecked hair with a big toothy grin. He said his name was Jerry. He told me it was his wedding anniversary. “My wife and I met here forty years ago and we had our first date here at the adjoining restaurant.” He mentioned that he and his wife Sondra lived in Pismo Beach but whenever they were in town to visit family, they return here to relive memories, have dinner together and to pick up some Italian goodies. He brought his wife over to meet me. Her name was Sondra. He yelled for her to come over. “Sondra!!!” She was a pleasant brunette with sparkling hazel eyes. They told me one of the wine bottles in the restaurant was hanging in the dining room with their names on it, memorializing the date of their first date.
I was wondering why they were sharing all of this info with yours truly.
After all, I was just a guy fumbling for cash in his pocket trying to do his weekly grocery shopping. Jerry said, “I just wanted to tell you that my wife and I overheard you ordering things at the grocery. That was awesome! It gave me an appetite. “Right, Sondra?” She quickly nodded. Jerry continued, “I heard about many things that were new to me and the wife as you were ordering at the grocery counter and making your round around the store. It inspired me. It inspired us. Thank you!”
“Gee, thanks, it was nothing special, really,” I humbly responded, sort of shrugging my shoulders. “I am glad you enjoyed me working through my shopping list.”
We shook hands. Jerry’s handshake was like a vice, and he pumped his forearm up and down enthusiastically saying how nice it was to meet me. Sondra actually hugged me.
Little Italy is about making memories (and food shopping) and making new friends. Warm handshakes and hugs are nice too!