24 September 2007

Trinacria Macaroni Works

In profile, I've got a Nefertiti head and the length of my hair, cut every two weeks, is just short of shaved. The only down side to my trademark look is a bone-dry scalp during heating season that no dandruff shampoo can cure. So I started rubbing my favorite extra-virgin olive oil, Colavita, on my head before showering. I jokingly refer to my head as a salad bowl.

One day, when buying an extra bottle of Colavita, I mentioned all this to Vince Fava, the owner of Trinacria Macaroni Works, the 100+ year-old Italian grocery founded by his grandfather with the same name. He informed me that Colavita makes a shampoo with olive oil and he would soon have it.

That got me thinking about how little Trinacria has changed over the years and how unusual - not bad, just unusual - any changes have struck me. Things like finding shampoo, body wash, and soap on the shelves; or the impossible-to-miss stainless steel 55 gallon drum holding olive oil that is decanted to order (by the way, it has a lighter taste than Colavita); or the staff's use of electronic devices rather than their brains, paper, and pencil to tabulate purchases – amazingly, the manual method persisted until just a few short years ago.

Located at 406 North Paca Street, it’s the lone retail outpost on this block, though that hardly deters the hoards seeking farfalle, farfalline, linguini, and linguini fini. Once in the door, the nose immediately alerts that Trinacria is so much more than just pasta, with the scents of cheeses, olives, breads, cookies, and deli combining into the finest kind of Italian perfume. Non-odiferous pantry items include a wide variety of canned and jarred sauces, tomatoes, peppers, etc.; arborio rice for risotto; quick-cook and conventional polentas; bottled and tinned olive oils; plain and fruity vinegars; locally-roasted coffee beans; and a plethora of well-priced wines. Actually, everything in Trinacria is well-priced, including cold case items such as make-your-own pizza components, heat and serve chi-chi dinners, and tubs of mascarpone. And the cherry on the gelato? - the overstuffed, made-to-order Italian sandwiches.

Here are some words of wisdom for first-timers: Trinacria is closed on Sundays and Mondays, bring quarters for the parking meters in case you’re not lucky enough to snag a space in the alley just north of the building, and don’t be dismayed by the crowd - the line moves pronto. Take a number and start assembling a pile on the counter. Chances are when it’s your turn you’ll still be marveling over the beet and squid pastas. It’s a safe bet that founder Vince Fava never sold these 100 years ago. Change can be good.

1 comment:

Bill Wernick said...

Ms. Shapiro,

I am enjoying your blog immensely and hope you can settle an ongoing dispute in our household. I have maintained that coffee beans should not be kept in the refrigerator but rather in a tightly sealed container at room temperature. The dissenting opinion proposes that refrigeration will extend the shelf life as it does for vegetables and cheeses. I found articles supporting my position but sadly they contained no scientific explanation justifying avoiding refrigeration so I have yet to settle this long standing debate. I am ceratin the colld temperature must adversely impact the oil in the beans or something. Can you help?