The History Of Italian Grocers In New Orleans

The History Of Italian Grocers In New Orleans

Always researching.
Always studying.
Always keen to learn more about New Orleans rich food culture.

Today, as we were researching the historic Montalbano’s Deli we stumbled upon an excellent 2009 article by Elizabeth Mullener, a former staff writer for the Times Picayune. In the old piece Ms Mullener explores the world of New Orleans’ Italian grocers beginning in 1880 when the Sicilians first began pouring into the Crescent City.

Old school New Orleanians will begin foaming at the mouth in remembrance of places with names like Ferrara’s, Dimiceli’s and Puglia’s.

How did these tiny grocers-often operated out of the front room of a small house-get ahead? ‘Ruthless under-consumption’ In other words being incredibly thrifty and denying themselves all but the most basic needs. It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you spend after all.

Mullener interviews Cosimo Matassa who says “A lot of people don’t realize it, but back then the French Quarter was a big blue-collar ghetto”

Ahhh, there is nothing we’d rather do than sit around reading interviews with old-line New Orleanians who were on the streets living the life back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

We drive 28 miles, round-trip, once a week to visit Zuppardo’s out in Metairie. It’s easily the best grocery store in Greater New Orleans, and it’s still operated by the same family that started out way back in 1937. It was the first ‘self-serve’ grocer in our city.

On our way back to the 9th Ward we always pop into Terranova Brothers Superette to pick up some fresh hot sausages.

read Elizabeth Mullener’s article Raised On Italian Food

  1. There was a Italian Grocery store in the French Qtr. during the 40’s & 50’s. Store carried lots of imported Italian foods and we visited it every time we visited family in NOLA. The store had two entrance on two streets. I remember that the name began with Di and the owner would come out and speak with all our family in Sicilian. He had a big tummy and always wore an apron. I think he was related to the Vaccaro family who owned United Fruit. My grandfather Joe Brocato worked for United Fruit. We were given cheese samples, salami, etc. and then we would proceed to Brocato’s s for Cannoli’s. Great memories.

    Gerald Brocato

    • RL Reeves Jr says:

      Back then there was a sub-neighborhood of the French Quarter called Little Palermo, so great was the concentration of Italians living in that sector. We can still feel their influence in the city. Hell, Joe Frady, one of our most esteemed corner store owners, had his family name changed, involuntarily, upon arriving in US way back when. They were Ferreras originally.

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