More than a Market

Specialty Block 2

My brother…would talk about going in the Merola’s store down the street or Izzo’s. And just a variety of Italian cheeses. This all came from Italy, and every so often they’d get calamari and bring in big tubs of calamari around Christmas time. And he says you could blindfold him and take him in any store and he could tell you where he was just from the smells, the cheeses, the cold cut meats. —Michel Allen, Lebanese neighbor and friend


Ronga Brothers Italian Grocers, Mulberry Street, New York, New York, c. 1943. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Izzo’s Market carried Italian specialty foods, as well as staples. In the early years, customers scooped macaroni and crackers out of barrels and bought beer in kegs. The air was thick with the smell of Italian cheeses like mozzarella, ricotta, and balls of provolone, which hung from the  ceiling dripping wax in summer. Cheeses and other specialty items like pepperoni, salami, mortadella, and sausage arrived from larger import businesses in Boston.







At Thanksgiving and Christmas, Concetta Izzo hosted a holiday gathering of extended family and “strays” with nowhere to go. The table groaned with the weight of turkeys and the fresh pasta that she made and dried on the clothesline. Dessert featured cannolis and bowls heaped with cicerchiata, small balls of dough dipped in honey, along with San Pellegrino mineral water and anisette to aid digestion.


Christmas at Concetta and Louis Izzo’s house. Photo courtesy of Louis Mario Izzo.