These 6 Italian Merchants Offer a Taste of the Old World

| Canadian, Food & Drink, History

Every nationality has their own incredible foods to share with the world.  Be it souvlaki from the Greeks, pierogis from the Polish or schnitzel from the Germans, every culture has a little tasty something to add to this country’s diverse culinary scene.

But then there’s the Italians.

Sure, my last name may prove that I’m a little biased, but come on! The people that give you mozzarella and prosciutto and cannoli and anything covered in red sauce is the king of kings in my book.  Walk into any Italian restaurant or grocer in Buffalo and the beautiful aromas trigger a happy dance for your taste buds.

Back in the 1950s, Buffalo’s Italian immigrant population was flourishing. Those men and women came to the city and started up businesses that celebrated their foods, some of which are still in business today!

Here’s a handful of our Italian shops and grocers – both old and new:

Guercio’s, 250 Grant Street, Buffalo
When the Guercio family first opened this location in 1961, they were situated in a largely Italian neighborhood on the west side of Buffalo making it THE place to stock up on fresh produce and Italian essentials like olive oil, cheese, deli meat and more.  Not much has changed in 56 years, it’s still the go-to place for many long-time residents and intrigued next-gen newcomers who are looking for that classic Buffalo vibe, to buy local and dive face-first into a killer capicola, roasted red pepper and provolone sandwich for $4.50 at the deli.

Caruso’s Italian Imports, 1212 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo
This North Buffalo mainstay, with its classic red, white and green awning, has been in business since 1989 and stocks everything to satisfy your Italian cravings – meats, cheeses, olive oil, those Italian cookies that you can’t seem to find anywhere anymore, just to name a few.  What I like most about it? The space is cozy.  You’re not bombarded by 47 varieties of pecorino romano or cans of san Marzano tomatoes.  You walk in, you pick up the handful of things you were looking for/dreaming of and you’re on your way in a matter of moments.

Gondola, 1985 Niagara Street, Buffalo
If you’ve been out and about in Buffalo long enough, you’re bound to run into Gondola products on the shelves and in the freezers of so many businesses and restaurants.  They’ve been cranking out the fresh made pasta for the last 60 years and you’ll know the reason they’ve been around so long as soon as you take a bite (their cheese tortellini is life-changing.) Stop by their Black Rock location, meet the third generation Calla family and stock up on your favorite carbs.

Pellicano’s Marketplace, 3176 Niagara Falls Boulevard, North Tonawanda
Whether you’re looking for some Italian deli favorites to round out your charcuterie tray or fresh ingredients to put the finishing touches on your grandmother’s sauce, Pellicano’s prides itself on having it all…and then some.   The Pellicano family put their name on the store because they truly want you to feel like family when you walk in the door. If you’re home for the holidays or visiting family and friends, pick up one of their Italian gift baskets to wow YOUR family with.

Simply Italiano, 85 Central Avenue, Lancaster
The new bambino in town would be this Italian specialty shop in the village of Lancaster.  Owners Paul and Ellen Lista opened their doors only a few short years ago but don’t let their newness to the scene make you think they don’t know their stuff.  Ask Paul what the difference between this pasta and that pasta or what recipe he uses for his homemade cucidati and you’ll see what I mean. The shop is incredibly cozy and downright adorable.  Plan your visit for a Saturday or Sunday to sample one of their sweet or savory crepes and a shot of espresso.  Then fill that basket up to the brim!

Luigi’s Bakery, 83 Forest Avenue, Buffalo
The art of bread making, truly is an art. This old-school Italian baker specializes in loaves of all varieties and delivers them all over town but some locals prefer to go straight to the source. Their location at 83 Forest Avenue is quite large but the retail section is modest.  Two large display cases in front and shelves of fresh bread in the back. The cases are filled with that morning’s baked goods ranging from pastry hearts (the size of a football I might add) to eclairs to cannoli, if you get there in time!  You won’t find pastas or olive oils here so what you may want to do is visit the previous 5 places and end your ‘Italian Goodies Trail’ at Luigi’s.