Groceria Merante: 40 years of food and family

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Groceria Merante: 40 years of food and family

The Groceria Merante celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday.

The Groceria Merante celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

The Groceria Merante celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

The Groceria Merante celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday.

By Tanner Smida, For the Pitt News

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Bates Street was a bit busier than usual on Saturday — it was a grocery store’s birthday.

Groceria Merante, the family-owned Oakland staple, celebrated its 40th anniversary over the weekend with a neighborhood block party on Saturday, bringing out a crowd of about 1000 people. Groups of people milled about, sampling fresh fruit, crunchy bruschetta and local honey. A bocce ball court entertained revelers who were confident in their hand-eye coordination.

Members of the Pittsburgh community stopped by to congratulate the owners of the shop, Julie and Filomena Merante, daughters of the original founders Philomena and Italo, now deceased. 

Salvatore Merante — who opened Merante Bros. Italian Market, Groceria Merante’s predecessor, alongside Italo in the 1950s — signed autographs beneath a collection of colored balloons bearing a silhouette of his signature moustache.

In every direction, members of the Merante family bustled about in monogrammed red polos. The whole family — nieces, daughters-in-law, sons and husbands — contributed to making the event a success.

Julie and Filomena Merante both said they love their culture and cuisine almost as much as they enjoy sharing it with others.

Multiple generations count themselves among their clientele, which has allowed the Merantes to witness their corner of Pittsburgh grow and change, watching as teenagers that once dined at their tables return with their own children years later. New friendships form in the aisles of the packed corner store frequently as well.

“You’ll see people in the aisles asking, ‘What are you making tonight?’ and talking as they shop,” Filomena said.

Today, the crowd of people that enters the Italian grocery is supplemented by many Pitt students living in the South Oakland area. Filomena said some are students who have visited Italy and wish to recapitulate aspects of their overseas experience, while others are exploring their ethnic roots or merely experimenting with the fresh offerings.

Whether a seasoned chef or beginner cook, Filomena said, anyone that walks through the door with an open mind and a curious palate has the wide variety of Merante recipes and a veritable treasure trove of experience at their disposal.

“We are happy to teach anyone that comes in about cooking,” Filomena said. “And we have many recipes.”

This attitude is a resource that has proven useful to Filomena’s children and Pitt students alike, especially those newcomers who find themselves far from home for the first time with no idea where to start in the kitchen.

For those interested in sampling some of the signature dishes that keep people coming back for decades, Filomena recommends their Merante Classic Italian sandwich with fried sweet onions.

“I’m sure that you’ll be coming back for another,” Julie said, laughing and handing a Merante Classic to a customer.

And if everything goes according to the co-owners plan, they will be around to keep Italian culture alive and well in Pittsburgh for decades to come. Members of the community have grown to love Groceria Merante for the warm atmosphere of a family store, including Linda and Jack Packard, who have lived in South Oakland for the past 37 years.

“It would be hard to summarize how wonderful this little family-owned grocery is and how big of a presence they have in South Oakland. Anyone who walks by within two blocks can smell the delicious aroma of peppers frying,” they said via email. “Everyone is met with a warm hello, a smile, and many times, a hug.”

The Merante family voiced their desire to keep things as consistent and traditional as possible since their opening day, and to maintain a standard of quality that has not gone unnoticed by the community. The Merantes were optimistic about the next 40 years with the Groceria Merante.

“We would like to still be doing what we are doing on the same corner,” Filomena said.

 

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