Food Stuff


In the first aisle of Alcamo’s (4423 Schaefer, 313-584-3010), Dearborn’s venerable Italian grocery, you’ll find crushed tomatoes, ground tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato paste, tomato sauce, whole tomatoes and strained tomatoes, imported from the old country in a waxed cardboard box.

Emily Chimento, whose family has run Alcamo’s for 30 years, says they carry "the best tomatoes in the world," San Marzano brand.

Alcamo’s theme is abundance. Take olive oil, for instance. It’s an essential ingredient for a good red sauce, insists Emily’s mother, Josephine Chimento. I didn’t try to count the number of brands on offer, gleaming gold-green in gorgeous bottles with glorious Mediterranean labels. Most are imported from Italy, but you can also get Spanish, Lebanese or Greek brands.

I asked the fellow behind the deli counter, "Is there any cheese you don’t have?"

"Bad cheese. We don’t have any bad cheese," he returned, without missing a beat. Take advantage of the "Cheese, Wine & Fruit Guide" that advises which cheeses go with which of the latter.

I bought a quarter-pound of sweet and sharp asiago to grate over a simple marinara sauce made with Josephine’s instructions, and found it a good step up from Parmesan and Romano. A little goes a long way. Note the cheese poster, "The Cure for the Common Meal," and ask for advice.

Josephine says the reason Italians make 2,000 different pasta cuts is because each sauce needs a different noodle to hold it properly. Spaghetti or fettuccine can support a heavy sauce such as Alfredo, but a thinner sauce needs something like orecchiette (ears) with pockets to catch the liquid.

Check out the 20-inch spaghetti, or candele (candles – long thick tubes), or farfalle, fusilli, fedelini, bird’s nests, or elicoidali (spiral). All come from Italy. Let your kid choose here.

Alcamo’s sells 4,500 pounds of meat a week (rabbit is one variety) and 10,000 pounds of sausage alone at Christmastime. The half-dozen sausage types (garlic, cheese and wine, etc.) are made on the premises with natural casings and no preservatives. Other meats are prepared Italian-style, such as chicken and pork speidini or pork roast bragiole – a rolled-up pork loin stuffed with prosciutto, provolone and spices.

Also made at Alcamo’s is a sharp, highly garlicked dipping sauce called amoglio. I liked it on fresh bread from the Italia Bakery in Windsor.

It wouldn’t be an Italian grocery without Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread that Italian children smear on bread and some people eat straight from the jar.

What else? More kinds of olives, canned or fresh, than you can imagine. Wine. Coffee beans – espresso, of course. Italian cookies such as anisette toast. A deli with calzones, salads, stuffed grape leaves, Amish chicken, and portobellos stuffed with sausage. Yum.– Jane Slaughter


Trick or treat at the Whitney’s Annual Carved Pumpkin Contest, a new Detroit tradition. Bring a complete carved jack-o’-lantern to the restaurant’s garden between 11 a.m. and noon on Saturday, Oct. 30. Entry categories are 12 and under, and adult. Refreshments compliments of the Whitney (Woodward at Canfield, Detroit), various prizes to be awarded. … Your neighborhood Einstein Bagels has new stuff – Powerbagels are hole-less bagels loaded with raisins, nuts and dried fruits. Eggs4ways are breakfast sandwiches with eggs, natch. Challah comes in buns or, on Fridays only, whole loaves.

About The Author

Jane Slaughter

Jane Slaughter is a former editor of Labor Notes and co-author of Secrets of a Successful Organizer. Her writing has also appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, Monthly Review, and In These Times.
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