January 20, 2008

Almost like shopping with Grandma...

Grocery shopping with my grandmother remains one of my fondest childhood memories. Those of you who've been reading for a while know that growing up, we spent summers visiting our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Illinois. My paternal grandparents made the journey from Italy to America as small children. Both families settled in small mining towns southwest of Chicago. Summers in the villages of Ladd, Cherry, Chicago Heights and Steger Illinois taught me a lot about life, love and community in small town America. And one of the best things about small town America to me when I was growing up was time spent in what Grandpa called the marts of trade.

Unlike today's mega-marts and warehouse-style outlets, grocery shopping with my grandmother was only partially about stocking the pantry and the refrigerator. It was also a chance to greet neighbors, relatives, friends. And to get advice from food purveyors on what was good today, what was fresh, and how to prepare it. Grandma Kate knew Dominic the butcher, his wife, his son and daughter, his new baby grandson. And Dominic knew how much my grandfather loved a tender pork roast, a rare beefsteak. And he always had a scrap slice of mortadella or salami to delight my brother and me. Similar scenarios played out in the bakery, the green grocer, the fish counter and even the four check-out counters at the front of the store. Grocery shopping with my grandmother was part financial transaction, part social interaction, part educational experience, and a great adventure.

The only thing that came close to this in my 21st century adult life was the farmer's markets -- at least until Lunardi's opened in Danville. It's taken the space of Andronicos, an upscale grocery chain from Berkeley. And with artisan meats and cheeses, and in-store bakery and a Peet's Coffee, it hasn't abandoned the upscale market.

But what makes Lundardi's special for me is the people. The fact that during precious days before Christmas, when he's got a line of people a mile long, Joe behind the butcher counter asks me what I'm doing with three pounds of pork tenderloin. And when I tell him we're serving it stuffed for dinner on Christmas Eve, he takes the time to butterfly it for me. And tosses in a length of butcher's twine to hold it together. That Ann and Arnold at the registers do more than make occasional eye contact with their customers... they converse with us. They remember names, and where customers' kids go to school.

It's almost like shopping with Grandma...

Lunardi's Market| 345 Railroad Ave., Danville, CA | 925.855.8920

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5 comments:

Peabody said...

I would love a shop like that!

Karen said...

Thanks for this tip. I'm not too far and will check it out.

Maryann said...

"Like shopping with grandma"..I know just what you mean. If only things could be like that again :)

Cakespy said...

I love shops like this, I wish I could go! Next time I am on a road trip...

chou said...

My cheese monger used to be that way. Then he quit.