Specialty Food Magazine

JUL-AUG 2013

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/139333

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Page 148 of 217

STATEN ISLAND T hough its relative distance from Manhattan and suburban landscape have caused some to label it the forgotten borough, Staten Island is capturing interest from New Yorkers and neighboring states, with a mix of exotic foods to rival any of its peers.—D.P. Lanka Grocery Tompkinsville While more commonly known for its traditional Italian groceries and restaurants, Staten Island is home to the country's third- largest Sri Lankan community. Over the past 15 years, food stores and restaurants have multiplied in the Tompkinsville neighborhood on Victory Boulevard, not far from the St. George ferry terminal, in an area now known as Little Sri Lanka. One store, Lanka Grocery, serves as the community's go-to source for authentic foods. In addition to locals, customers include those traveling from Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., for a taste of products from home, says owner Jaawan "Jay" Jayathunga. Some of the most traditional products include juices and soft drinks such as a basil seed drink with honey (very popular among the locals, says Jayathunga) and woodapple nectar. The latter is made from the woodapple fruit, indigenous to the country and likened to the taste of tamarind but with a pungent aroma; it's commonly used in juices or chutneys. Speaking of chutneys, varieties common to Sri Lanka and South India line the shelves along with teas and cinnamon—two products most associated with Sri Lanka's colonial name, Ceylon. In addition, Lanka Grocery stocks disks of cane sugar, called jaggery, that locals use in tea in place of granulated sugar, and goraka paste, a souring agent often used in fish curries that is made from goraka orange fruit that turns black when dried. Rice is a best seller, says Jayathunga, and bags of jasmine, basmati, samba, red raw rice and other types are piled high. The selection of pulses, or dal, is almost as large and includes red lentils (masoor dal), mung beans (moong dal), black chickpeas (chana dal) among others. Lanka Grocery is also known for its spice selection, which includes coriander, fenugreek and mustard seeds as well as cumin, curry powder and crushed chiles. The location is actually Jayathunga's second; his original Lanka Grocery, which still stands across the street at 320 Victory Boulevard, opened in 2005. As the community has grown, he expanded with a second, larger location about a year ago. 353 Victory Blvd., Staten Island, N.Y.; 718.390.0337; lankagroceryny.com Little Italy Gourmet New Dorp 132 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com PHOTOS: DENISE PURCELL The Cruciata family knows how to make an Italian food store feel authentic, having been in business for 25 years. Formerly the owners of Bella Vita Pork Store on Staten Island, they bought the larger Little Italy Gourmet in the New Dorp neighborhood four years ago and have created a niche through high-quality traditional products and a familial atmosphere. Owner Joe Cruciata, who walks the store interacting with shoppers and conferring with staff, knows many customers by name. Wife and co-owner Cathy and their son and daughter, Anthony and Daniela, are also on hand along with other family members. "We're all everywhere doing anything that needs to be done," says Anthony. Little Italy Gourmet specializes in deli and catering, which accounts for half of total sales. The prepared foods case features a daily offering of up to 50 selections including about 10 cold items such as marinated mushrooms and antipasto salad. Hot foods comprise about 15 to 20 additional selections of Italian-American favorites like lasagna, meatballs and chicken cutlets. Daily sandwiches and soups include escarole and beans and pasta fagioli. The extensive catering menu offers hot and cold entrees and specialty platters. All food is made on the premises, much of it from family recipes. Surrounding the prepared foods counter are mounds of dried pastas in out-of-theordinary selections such as spaghetti alla Chitarra from Abruzzo and Ligurian trofie. The dried meats are equally abundant. Throughout the store are Italian grocery items like cookies, olive oils, vinegars and condiments, but amid these imported specialties are occasional local surprises like Manhattan Special Espresso Coffee Soda. The inevitable canned tomatoes are stacked wherever there is free space (in this case Italian brand La Squista San Marzano tomatoes) as are packages of panettone. Most desserts are brought in from local bakeries, such as cannoli cookies from Cannoli Plus in Brooklyn. Bread, meanwhile, is delivered from Brooklyn's Cammareri Brothers, made famous in "Moonstruck" the 1987 movie starring Cher about, appropriately, an Italian family. 1375 N. Railroad Ave., Staten Island, N.Y.; 718.980.FOOD; littleitalygourmetnyc.com

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