Thursday, April 21, 2011

TTITIM #6: Mercatale Conad: The Best Grocery in the World

I can’t quite remember--did I mention the Conad (Conad is a chain-ish line of grocery stores--meaning, there are lots of them, and they have the Conad house brand products, and probably use the same rewards program, but are usually very different in style, size, etc) in Mercatale? I don’t think so, which is sad if true, cause it’s my favorite shopping spot in, well, the whole world. Is that too outrageous? Here’s a photo that will make the statement even more so, cause it’s so unassuming:
and inside, it’s about the size of a small Starbucks or such. For a basic overview: it has just three aisles, starting with the veg and cookie aisle:
Notice (and this is the same in all Italian grocery stores) the machine on the left. You take your veg or fruit and set it on it, press the right number, and it spits out a sticker with scan code and price. This is genius--why can’t we have it in the states? It makes everything easier. Moving on is the pasta aisle (with sauces, cans, etc on the other side, un-pictured), which as you’d expect is amazing. Notice also the stacks of special Easter cakes:
Against the back wall, there is a fantastic meat:
and cheese case:
The third aisle is cleaning products and soda and dog biscuits, but first you have corner round the liquor shelves:
Having such a fine selection (there are more liqueurs behind the cheese/meat and in other various areas, too), a cheers worthy selection, in a store this size shows how the store’s priorities are in the perfect spot. Now, the liquor selection, the tasty array of great pastas, cheeses, sauces, veg, fruit, and much more, with prices that are really shockingly low, would be enough to make the Mercatale Conad a favorite. But what really sets it apart, and what takes it from being one of the best groceries to the best, is the owners. Starting with the Mr.:
who is perhaps the most friendliest  man in Italy. Really. From the first day we went in (he greeted us with a giant smile and a “salute!”) he made us feel incredibly welcome, even with our lack of Italian language skills (he doesn’t have any English, either, but hey, we’re in his country, he doesn’t need to), and never once didn’t greet us smiling. Also, he looked out for us--made sure we had two half-dozen eggs packs when it was two-for-one and we didn’t notice the sign, bringing us a box when we had a ton of bottles to carry out, and more. And it’s not solely us, either. There’s only one checkout line in the store, but even so he’ll always help the older Italian ladies with their groceries as needed, but still manages to keep everyone happy about it. As a final bonus, he reminds me of an older version of pal Jaime Curl (who writes the blog Suisse Miss Lucia about he and his family's life in Switzerland). The Mrs. at the store is also super nice:
and also always incredibly friendly towards us. Once, when we were buying ginger, she noticed a slight bruise on one piece, called over the Mr., and they went to the produce area, checked out all the ginger there, realized we probably had, actually, the best one, and only charged us half price. Can you see the cashier at Safeway doing that? Ah, well, maybe going back to stores that are bigger, but nowhere near as good, will help me lose some pasta pounds?


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