Every good Italian thing - like pancetta, caciocavallo, the best sandwiches in the world, and canolli - is worth a road trip. Shortly after Hubby and I got married we moved across the city, a mere 5 minute drive to what is arguably the best grocery store in the world - the original Italian Centre Shop. Aside from the farmers' market and milk from the chain grocery store, we bought everything else we ate from this store. Tucked into an inner city neighbourhood this corner of Italy (and Europe) brought us great gastronomical, social, and aesthetic (you should have seen the boys in the deli) pleasure.
The Italian Centre Shop was one of the things we missed the most about Edmonton when we moved to Calgary 5 years ago. There are good Italian shops here, but they weren't quite the same. Not in character, not in food, but maybe still with the boys in the deli. Sure, the aisles were too narrow and there never really is a downtime, but it is a special place.
Since we moved a second Italian Centre Shop opened in Edmonton, on the southside of town. Conveniently, it is located a mere 5 minute drive from my mother-in-law. This saves me the traffic and construction congestion to get through downtown to the original location.
Arguably, the character at the second location is just not the same. Having made a few trips there I can say that it is improving. Lack of character is more than made up for with wider aisles and the bakery alone.
Sadly, the boys in the deli are not there either. Of course, I have to say that knowing that my brother-in-law's nephew now works there. He and a bunch of older men and women. Either way, the staff are knowledgeable and generally friendly. They are quick to offer a sample if you are curious about one of the nearly 50 cheeses they carry. And, more importantly, they are quick to give you cooking advice. Pick up your number and catch the drool while they wait to serve you.
I must confess that I went a little crazy when I was there. My mother-in-law bought olives, olive oil, and feta - exactly what she came there for. I controlled myself at the deli, buying only some panchetta, proscuitto parma, caciocavallo cheese, and montasio cheese. Then I bought a few bottle of oil, some balsamic vinegar, cookies, even pop. The cart got a little crowded for the baby. And Hubby was none too happy about packing it all for the trip back to Calgary
It was all the start of something good. After our regular Sunday morning market visit I made roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta for dinner. Yesterday I made proscuitto wrapped melon for moms' group. The Monster loved the pancetta, not surpising as it is a close cousin to bacon - one of the only meats she will eat these days. She wasn't a fan of the proscuitto parma. I plan to simply nibble on the remainder of the caciocavallo throughout the week and make some fricos with the montasio cheese, although I haven't decided between apple or swiss chard.
Back at the store we finished our shopping with lunch. This location has a cafe attached, aptly named Spinelli's after the owners. We indulged in the best sandwich ever - salami, spicy capicola, ham, provolone, and hot vegetable spread all on a ciabatta. Lucky for us the Monster didn't want anything but her brownie. That meant we didn't have to share and she happily munched away on her completely indulgent lunch. And if I drank coffee I'm sure this cappuccino would have finished things off nicely, my mother-in-law thought so. I was just excited to get home and cook.
The Italian Centre Shop
Original Location: 10878 95 Street 780-424-4869
South Location: 5028 104A Street 780-989-4869