Italian Stores


This past Friday my family went to meet Lidia Bastianich in Virginia!  She is on tour promoting her new book, Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy.  Unlike the Sarah Palin book tour, we did not have to camp out the night before but we did have to wait in a line for an hour.  Lidia looked great and it was really fun.  I brought a Piazza canvas bag for her, filled with some of our more unusual items; pistachio paste, tropea onion spread, and a Scrumptious Pantry cantuccione among other things.  She was happy to take the bag and since she was traveling with her assistant, book rep, and the executive chef of her Kansas City restaurant I’m sure those provisions won’t last long.  Her new book is great, it is all about the foods of lesser known regions of Italy, Liguria, Val d’Aosta, Lombardia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Molise, etc.  At this time of year, I am thrilled to find good recipes for celery root and she has two!  I was also very glad to find a ‘white bolognese’ sauce in the Emilia-Romagna section.  I don’t know exactly when but about eight years ago the New York Times Sunday magazine printed a similar recipe that my mom made.  I think of it often.  Another great find is a recipe for Cima alla Genovese, something that I seen but haven’t been able to try.  I saw slices of it in Torino at a shop called Baita Formaggio.  It is a boiled veal roast stuffed with vegetables and hard boiled eggs.  She says that hers is the home-version, I imagine the deli version I saw might be made from ground meat more like mortadella.  I didn’t think to ask her! 

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mozzarella from hellI want to begin by apologizing to all our customers for any trouble they may have had related to mozzarella from our store this week.  If you recently purchased a mozzarella that was not to your satisfaction, please come in and let us know.  We will happily refund your money or replace your mozzarella with a fresh one, just let us know when you come in.  We’ve been having some trouble with our suppliers.

This week of July 13th will go down on the record as “mozzarella hell” and I will refer to this week as such for years to come.  Let me tell you why.  The story revolves around two suppliers, CW and NJ.  On Monday I ordered a case of buffalo mozzarella from CW and I decided not to order our fresh mozzarella from them.  For the last few weeks an increasing portion of our mozzarella order was arriving with brown spots.  I would set those pieces aside, call my sales representative and receive a credit for those; problem solved, except for the fact that I had less stock to sell for the weekend.  My sales rep was aware of the mozzarella problem, I had complained to him and asked him what the problem was-  were they sitting in the warehouse too long, were they on the delivery truck too long and what changed?  No response.  It was disappointing but was a problem that we were able to absorb.

On Tuesday I came to work and found that two customers  had called the night before and complained that the mozzarella they had bought during the weekend was sour by Sunday.  I was angry with CW because I had no way of knowing that those mozzarella were bad, they looked normal.   I was embarrassed.  I wrote a very angry letter to the regional manager of CW (whom I met two weeks ago) along with copies of the notes from my customers.  I didn’t hear from CW so I decided to order my fresh mozzarella from another supplier, NJ, and I expected it to arrive on Wednesday.

Wednesday morning and it seems that the delivery from NJ is late.  I call the company and they told me that they are having computer trouble and that all deliveries are running 5-7 hours late.  We start to tell our customers that we are switching mozz suppliers and that the delivery is coming that evening and offer the buffalo mozzarella from CW.  Soon after, a customer comes in and says that the buffalo mozz he bought yesterday was sour.  We check another bag and sure enough, all the pieces are bad although none are bubbled or have any indication of their expiration.  Now I’m really mad at CW and I call my rep and demand he find out what is going on.  He tells me that he can give me a credit on the buffalo mozz but he doesn’t really know what’s going on.  He told me that he asked one of his other accounts about the fresh mozz because, apparently, I’m the only one who has been complaining about this problem.  The local restaurant that orders the same mozz from CW has noticed that the mozz have been arriving with spots but that they just cut those out before they cook with them and didn’t think to report the problem.  How gross.  I left the store before the NJ order arrived because they said that the driver from NJ won’t be there until 7 pm.

Thursday morning I looked around for the mozz from NJ but there is none and it’s not even on the invoice.  I call NJ and ask for my sales rep, J.  My rep is not there today but E says that he can help me.  I explain that I ordered two cases of mozz on Tuesday with a woman but there is no evidence of those pieces on my invoice.  E says he’s going to do some digging around and call me back.  While I’m waiting to hear from E I’m trying to figure out what to do because another day is passing and we don’t have any mozzarella.  Should I drive up to the CW warehouse and pick mozz in person, making sure its fresh?  Drive to NJ and pick up my two cases in person?  Drive out to another supplier in VA and pick something there?  See if NJ can ship me the mozz overnight?  E calls back at 11:30 and says that he found my order, he sees their mistake and he offers to overnight ship the mozz before I even have the chance to insist on it.  I am relieved that I won’t have to spend Thursday driving around and that I will be able to enjoy my day off on Friday knowing that mozzarella is on its way.

On Friday morning my assistant manager DJ calls NJ because it’s 11:30 and the mozzarella hasn’t arrived.  The woman at NJ says that the mozzarella was shipped out yesterday but that it won’t be at Piazza until 3 pm because it costs (them) twice as much to get it to us before noon.  DJ is angry because Friday morning is second only to Saturday morning in sales but she bites her tongue because she figures that the lady at NJ doesn’t know that.  At 2:50 pm the mozzarella still hasn’t arrived so DJ calls NJ again and asks the same woman for the tracking number of our package.  The woman tells her to hold on while she looks for it.  She comes back and informs DJ that the mozz never got sent because while they were packing it up on Thursday they noticed that it was out of date and decided not to send it to us.  So why had the woman at NJ told her that it was on its way??  She answered that she had heard the delivery guys talking about the mozz yesterday so she had assumed it had been sent out.  She doesn’t know why no one called us but E isn’t there and neither is our rep, J.  So DJ calls me and asks me what I want to do.

The sad thing is, at this point, I’m not surprised that there is more drama.  I mean, since Monday, I have burned my arm pretty badly, cut my finger, found out that farro won’t be available until the end of August, forgotten to go to a radio interview, forgotten to order Sesamo bread, and realized too late that Altimura bread and provolone were out of stock (and today this post was completely erased and had to be re-written)!  Why couldn’t something else go wrong?  I called NJ myself.  I asked for the woman who was there earlier, the man on the phone said that she was gone but that he could help me.  I told him the whole story and I said “whatever can be done at this point NEEDS TO BE DONE, send me ANY mozzarella.”  He said they don’t send things out on Fridays.  I said drop it off at a shipping center.  He said that was unnecessary because they don’t have any mozzarella.  Nothing.  No ovaline, bocconcini, ciliegine, loaves, NOTHING.  He said nothing can be done until Monday.  I told him that it was too bad that I hadn’t known about this yesterday because now I’ve missed a big shopping day at the store, I’ve been telling my customers all week to please be patient because mozzarella is coming and now its 3:00 on Friday and I don’t have any options???  Thanks for nothing.

At that moment I was on my way back from Salisbury (that’s another story) and I realized that I had to continue onto Annapolis (where I had gone last night and the reason I had to go to Salisbury) and beg a store for enough mozzarella to last us for the next five days and return to Easton during Friday rush hour.  Today is Saturday and we have mozzarella and we’re not making any money but at least we don’t have to make any more excuses.  To all our customers, my apologies and please forgive me, this week was mozzarella hell.

This week I am featured on the Gustiamo blog!  I had a nice conversation with Beatrice earlier this week about everything from my great-grandparents to private labeling.  You can read the announcement here.

 

I was also featured in the Sunday business section of the Star-Democrat, Easton’s local paper.  Here is the link, but you must register with the website to read the whole article for right now.  We are working on posting it to our website.

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When I tell people here in Maryland that I’m opening an Italian store they always ask me if I’ve been to Trinacria in Baltimore.  Until a few weeks ago, I had to admit that I hadn’t been there, a reply which garnered looks of suspicion.  I have two excuses:

#1 Trinacria is not in the Little Italy section of Baltimore which I have been to several times and

#2 When I tried to go in August they were already closed (they close at 4:00 pm).

On October 3rd, I made it over there:

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The store was super old-school, they were selling many things directly out of the cases.  The prices are unbeatable.  The cheapest stuff anywhere– cans of tomatoes, boxes of pasta, olives, cookies, oil.  So cheap.  Their private label pasta sauces and olive oil seem like the best deal of all, so I asked the guy if they sell wholesale.  No, he said, they stopped doing wholesale about two years ago because it was a headache.  Darn it!  I bought a bottle of wine, a bottle of soda, some tomatoes, a sandwich, and some pasta.  It was dead quiet at 3:00 pm that Friday but I bet on Saturdays they have lines out the door!  p10102083