Category Archives: Store

Before You Check Out at the Grocery Store, Check Out Your Grocery Store

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

–Make a list of all the grocery stores/supermarkets in your city/county/area. Remember to include smaller, privately and family-owned markets, including markets with international foods like Italian, Asian, Mediterranean, etc. You can use a map feature online to help find the grocery stores.

Image by Firmbee from Pixabay 

–Look up the website of each grocery store in a search engine.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

–On each store’s website, read its “About Us” or “Company History” page. This is where you’ll find out more about the store, such as who owns it and what its core values are.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

–Try to find the answer to these questions:

–Is it locally owned by someone in your community?

–If family-owned, is the family of the millionaire/billionaire class or middle class and are they local?

–Is it employee-owned?

–Is it a privately held company or publicly traded on NASDAQ or NYSE?

–Is it part of a multinational corporation? If so, which one? Do their corporate values align with yours?

–Does it donate money to local causes that you personally believe in?

–Does it carry locally made products from local ingredients?

–Is it utilizing AI? How?

–What forms of payment does it accept?

–How is it dealing with the current situation? Are you comfortable with its policies?

–Shop at the store that aligns with your values. For example, I don’t shop anywhere that doesn’t accept cash.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

It’s an interesting exercise, and you may find surprises. For example, in my area, I discovered that a beloved local grocery store had been bought by a multinational from a European country, and I’m sure many people shop there unknowingly because of brand recognition. That’s why I think it’s important to reflect on our purchases and who we give our money to because in the end, that is where our vote really counts.

–Dina Di Maio, author of Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People

How to Shop Local for the Holiday/Christmas Season

“Shop Local” is an ubiquitous phrase appearing on social media, in magazines and newspapers, and on websites. But what does it mean? I recently went to a locally owned store, which I was happy to support, but when I turned all the items over in my hand, I noticed most were stamped “Made in China.” That’s when I got to wondering, what is local?

 Stock photo by Tim Mossholder from Unsplash

Local has two meanings to me. The first, a locally owned business. This means “a business in your local area owned by a person, partners, or family.” But what does that mean? What kind of goods does this store sell? Are they locally produced? Who benefits from the sale of the items at this store? Where do the items come from? Are they locally produced with local materials or ingredients?

The second meaning of local to me, means “from the local area.” That means, for example, apples from New York state, sweet potatoes from North Carolina, cranberries from Maine.

Stock photo by Henk van der Steege from Unsplash

So for me, I have defined what local means and how I am going to shop local for the holiday season. This is how.

 

For the holiday table:

–Buying produce from local farmers’ markets or grocery stores that sell local produce that is in season now. Serving dishes made from local, in-season ingredients. Examples, baked sweet potatoes or apple cider.

Stock photo by sheri silver on Unsplash

 

For decorating:

–Decorating with some locally made or grown items, such as pumpkins from a local pumpkin patch or a handmade holiday ornament from a local artisan, extra points if it is made from a locally sourced material. Local artisans can be found at holiday fairs (many of which are doing virtual versions this year) or at shops that specialize in or carry local products.

Stock photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

 

For gift giving:

–Buying from local artisans to support the local economy BUT also paying attention to the materials used in the local products. If it is locally sourced, all the better.

–Producing a homemade gift from your own hobby, skill, or craft. Trying to use local ingredients or materials.

Stock photo by Bernadette Wurzinger from Pixabay

–Shipping food gifts from local companies that sell a product made from some local ingredients. This requires a little more work on my end, such as ignoring the glossy catalogs that come in the mail with their overpriced gift baskets, and opting for a local version that I seek out through a search on a search engine or through local word-of-mouth.

–Buying books that are self-published or independently published or published by a small press. It’s not enough to buy at an independent book seller or local bookstore. Local bookstores may fit into category one, “a business in your local area owned by a person, partners, or family,” but they usually contain books published through the BIG FIVE New York City publishers, whose books are often printed in China. Unfortunately, in my experience and as voiced by others, such as the Latinx community earlier this year, big publishing is elitist and often publishes material that reinforces an established narrative. This is why it is so important to buy self-published/independently/small press published books. By doing so, you are actively protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press. How do you do this? Reach out to local writers’ groups whose members often have published books. Search for books and topics you enjoy through social media accounts. Search on Amazon for self-published books—these often don’t appear on the first search pages, so keep going! If you scroll down a book’s page on Amazon, you can read more information about the book, such as who the publisher is. Many self-published books are printed in the USA. For example, my books are printed in a state neighboring my own!

 

–Dina Di Maio, author of Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People

Authentic Italian

Dolce & Clemente’s Italian Market in Robbinsville, NJ

Owner Joe Clemente hails from Brooklyn where his family had successful grocery businesses. In 2008, he opened Dolce & Clemente in Robbinsville, New Jersey.  If you visit, it is in the same shopping center as De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies, so you can shop before or after your pizza.  They have a deli counter, bakery and prepared meal sections.

So much Italian bread

Imported cheeses

Giant cannoli

Plenty of taralli and even gluten-free pasta

Bagliani’s Italian Market in Hammonton, New Jersey

Bagliani’s Italian Market is a third-generation family-owned Italian market in Hammonton, New Jersey, a city in a farming community with an Italian-American population of 45%.  They have everything an Italian could want.

Italian bread

good-quality ricotta

the hard-to-find basket cheese

real buttermilk! (OK, maybe the average Italian cook doesn’t need this one, but I sure do!)

a huge deli department

pasta

lots of cheeses and even canned Jersey tomatoes!  And, of course, plenty of Brioschi for after the meal!

–Dina Di Maio, author of Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People

San Remo Italian Imports in Totowa, NJ

San Remo Italian Imports in Totowa, New Jersey, is an Italian imports store owned by a friendly man from Italy that sells food and sundries, such as canned and jarred foods, cookies, candies, cakes, olive oil, vinegar, coffee– your essential items from Italy.  There are some kitchen items like bowls, platters and cheese graters.  The store also has some Italian greeting cards, movies, CDs, T-shirts and tchotchke from Italy like Italian horns, keychains, wooden Pinocchios and stickers.  One of the highlights of this store is that they sell Italian magazines, which are hard to find.  They have a good selection of tabloid-type, cooking and news magazines.

 

 

Neighborhood Watch: Arthur Avenue in the Bronx

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Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx, is the only real Italian neighborhood left in NYC.  If you’re looking for an authentic Italian American experience, this is the place to be.  However, it’s not so easy to get to.  It’s a long, hilly walk from the subway.  Or if you take a cab, the cab driver will not know where it is.  I know cab drivers are supposed to know where to go in the boroughs, but they don’t, especially in the Bronx and Queens and sometimes, Brooklyn.  I suggest you have directions or your phone GPS on hand to assist the driver.

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The main strip is Arthur Avenue from East 184th Street to East 187th Street.  On East 187th Street, there’s Artuso’s Pastry, the home of the famous Pope cookies.  In case you are looking for them, the Pope cookies were made for Pope Benedict’s visit to New York and his recent resignation, but they do not have Pope cookies now.

Visit Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

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Walk west to Egidio Pastry and admire the case full of beautiful pastries.

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The history of the building is evident with its tin ceiling.

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Here, we tried a mini cannoli and a mini sfogliatelle. They were both very good, but the sfogliatelle was particularly well crafted with flaky layers.

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DeLillo Pastry has outdoor seating and a mighty fine cannoli with creamy ricotta filling.

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There are a lot of bakeries on this small strip, so if you are doing a tasting, be prepared to eat a lot or to take some home. I brought my rolling backpack so that I could easily bring things home with me.

In addition to bakeries, there are ravioli/pasta shops, seafood markets, meat markets, cheese shops, pizzerias, Italian restaurants and kitchen stores. At Marie’s, you can get dinnerware and housewares, as well as coffee, from Italy.
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OK, vegetarians in the crowd will not want to look at the next photo–the body of a sheep hanging in the window of a meat market.

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Teitel Brothers is an Italian grocery store owned by a Jewish family that has been in the neighborhood since 1915.

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Now this is something you don’t see anymore–a bread bakery.  Zito’s and Vesuvio’s in the city closed awhile ago.  Thank goodness Addeo’s is still here in the Bronx.

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Look at that bread.

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At Biancardi’s meat market, you can still get capuzelle, or sheep’s head.

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Madonia Bakery has beautiful bread and also fills cannoli to order.

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I got some yummy cookies for the road.

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In the middle of the block, there’s an indoor market, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, with a butcher, fish and produce market as well as products from Italy and Arthur Avenue T-shirts and souvenirs.

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The butcher here had beef feet.  I’ve never seen these before and am not sure how Italians use them.

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If you’re into offal, this is the place to be.  Here’s cotenne, the pig skin I’ve written about, in the rear of this photo.

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Brains, anyone?

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OK, I definitely share the sentiment with these T-shirts.

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Check out Cerini Coffee, a fun store with housewares from Italy.

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At Morrone Pastry Shop & Café, I got a rainbow cookie cake slice and a tortoni.  Both were delicious.  (I also bought a rainbow cookie cake for my aunt’s birthday.  I froze it the day I bought it and thawed it a week later.  It was fresh, moist and delicious.)

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In case you thought I just had sweets, I did stop for a slice of pizza at Catania’s.

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What to Eat:  pastries and bread from Artuso’s, Egidio’s, DeLillo’s, Madonia’s, Addeo’s or Morrone’s; pizza from Catania’s.

Where to Shop:  Marie’s and Cerini’s for kitchen wares; the Arthur Avenue Retail Market for souvenirs, produce and Italian goods; Borgatti’s for ravioli; Randazzo’s for seafood.

What to See:  Columbus statue at East 183rd Street and Arthur Avenue, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on East 187th Street.