BY ROSIE PIGA PIZZO
“You got to try it.”
That’s what customers at Little Italy Market, a new specialty food store located at 421 E. 3rd St. in Colstone Square, frequently hear from owner Habibi Wael, especially when asking about freshly sliced, imported meats.
“Tasting is important,” says Wael, who spent 35 years in the wholesale food industry in Chicago. He opened Little Italy Market in September. “You have to sample all the products — they come from different regions — to find out what you really like.”
Customer Barbra Melrose came in for capocollo (a traditional Italian pork cold cut). Wael offered her a sample, as well as samples of soppressata (hot and mild), salami (cotto and Genoa), mortadella, porchetta, and prosciutto.
“I am thrilled that you can get fresh products here,” says Melrose. “I bought capocollo once in a package and it was awful. My family comes down for Thanksgiving, and my nephew brings everything from Chicago for antipasto. Now he can get it here.”
After Melrose finished choosing meats, Wael directed her to the freezer for Italian bread in ciabatta, rustic, and white semolina varieties. “It’s not good without the bread,” he says.
Wael also carries a variety of fresh olives and cheeses. The Parmigiano-Reggiano he stocks is aged for 18–24 months. “It’s got to be in that time frame,” he insists. “Beyond that, it’s no good.” The region where cheese comes from is also important in Italian cooking. “I have cheeses from various regions,” he says. “So much Italian cheese comes from sheep.”
In addition, Wael points out the regions of his various olive oils: Tuscany, Umbria, Sicily, to name a few, and notes the “Product of Italy” labeling on the bottles. “That is important,” he says. He is particularly proud to carry imported frozen Italian pasta. “It’s not made here,” he says. “Italians want it from Italy.”
Other goods lining the floor-to-ceiling shelves include pastas, balsamic vinegar, tomato products, coffee, cookies, and candy. Wael plans to offer fresh sandwiches beginning in January.
Little Italy Market is open from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday–Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Store updates can be found at facebook.com/btownlittleitalymarket.