Before markets became “super,” they were merely grocery stores, delis, butcher shops and bakeries. You could not get a loan, pick up prescriptions, prepare your tax return or fill your gas tank there. The products these neighborhood markets carried were usually identified by ethnicity. Each city had its own Little Italy and Chinatown. There were Irish, Russian, German and Jewish districts as well. In Pittsburgh, this phenomenon of cultural heritage expansion is often referred to as Heinz 57.
“What nationality are you?”
“Oh, I’m Heinz 57.”
Pittsburghers and our rich cultural diversity allow us to enjoy Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest with equal measures of enthusiasm, regardless of our cultural make-up. It also allows us to appreciate the multitude of ethnic-based markets that still line the streets of the Steel city today. In the spirit of American diversity, here are five of the best Pittsburgh-area ethnic markets and grocery stores.
S&D Polish Deli
2204 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Hours: Sun and Mon – 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tues to Sat – 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
S&D’s Polish Deli is regionally famous for its kielbasa, smoked sausage, deli sausage and ham. The sausage selection, which includes everything from duck to head cheese, is probably best known for the Weselna sausage. It’s a double-smoked, wedding-style sausage that helped make S&D Pittsburgh Magazine’s choice for Best Polish Deli of 2010. S&D is much more than a deli, and for many shoppers it is the pierogis, crepes, blintzes and dumplings that keep them coming back. The deli provides catering for parties and events, gift baskets, a daily lunch bar and soups and stews, all steeped in the wonderful tradition of Polish food.
Reyna Foods Mexican Grocery
2031 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Hours: Mon to Fri – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sat – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Since 1988, Reyna Foods has specialized in bringing traditional Mexican foods to everyone that visits its retail grocery store. Even if you’ve never stepped foot into Reyna Foods, chances are you’ve already enjoyed its Mejico-brand tortilla chips. They are supplied to the local Mad Mex, Yo Rita’s and Kaya restaurants. If looking for the freshest and most authentic tamales, tortillas, chips, salsa and Mexican cheeses, you’ll find them all at Reyna Foods.
Tokyo Japanese Store
5855 Ellsworth Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Hours: Tues to Sat – 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
You could eat Japanese for a week and not scratch the surface of the produce, fish, meats, noodles and rice available at the Tokyo Japanese Store. Located in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside, this Japanese market is truly a hidden gem right in the heart of the city. The produce arrives here on contract and fresh from the California-based Nagatoshi Farm. Daikon radishes, shiitake mushrooms, burdock root, Fuji apples and the beefsteak plant oba are all staples of the produce available at the store daily. For the sushi lover, Tokyo Japanese offers fresh fish (including yellow fin tuna and broiled eel) and the widest selection of rice, nori and wasabi in town.
620 Brookline Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Hours: Mon to Sat – 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The variety of Middle Eastern foods available at Pitaland begins with its pita bread, but it does not end there. A bountiful variety of olives, chickpeas, baba ganoush, grape leaves, flours and olive oils fill the store’s shelves. Pitaland provides fresh pita bread and authentic Middle Eastern ingredients to Pittsburgh-area restaurants including Ali Baba, Aladdin’s, Kassab’s, Khalil’s and countless others. Part of the charm of shopping at Pitaland is found in the on-site pita factory that winds its way through the rear of the store. Need something to stuff all that pita bread with? Pitaland has that covered too, with authentic spiced meats, salads, rice and beans available every day.
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237 Cedarville St
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Hours: Mon to Sat – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Groceria Italiana brings new meaning to the term “mangi bene.” The hand-stuffed ravioli has been available for more than 50 years at Groceria Italiana and one taste will tell you why. The raviolis are stuffed with everything from parmesan and gorgonzola, to artichokes and the finest quality prosciutto ham. It’s available fresh at the hot food bar for takeout and in the freezer aisle for preparation at home.
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Marcel Tourdot is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh. His work can be found at Examiner.com.