The pressures of modern life, even here, all but dictate that you can’t always have that perfect home-made meal on the table. (Sorry, Martha.) So you turn to your neighborhood lifeline: the salumeria. This is the place where—for more than you’d spend at the grocery store, but significantly less than you’d spend at a restaurant—you can buy deliciousness, ready for the plate. The better the salumeria, the higher the prices, but I dare say it’s worth it. Pasta dishes, lasagne, gnocchi alla romana, roasted chickens or beef, fish in a variety of presentations, fresh vegetable salads, cold and hot rice dishes, minestre (soups), cheeses, cold cuts or salumi (hence the name), steamed vegetables, desserts. You name it, they’ve got it. And beautifully prepared.
Most neighborhoods have their own. Ours is called Alberti, and it’s run by the family of the same name. The mother, in her late 60’s, sits at the cash register and reigns over the whole affair. An Italian steel magnolia, to be sure. Her adult children concern themselves with client service and management. They know your name. They know what you like. They know how many children you have, where they go to school, and how many dogs you park outside their door. But their familiarity with you never mucks up their professionalism. Only the adult daughter gives me the “tu” and that is because we are both mothers of girls who attended kindergarten at the same time. All the others give me the “lei” (the formal address), and they will do so until the end of our days. Of this I’m sure. Manners as impeccable as their white bags, wrappers and attention to detail.
1. Cold items are put in one bag. Hot items in another. 2. Items within the bag are hand-wrapped in their signature paper, and tied up with brown ribbon. 3. Anticipation. 4. In this case, thinly sliced prosciutto crudo, which I’ll serve with melon. Delish.