(Cindy)You have an Italian accent. How long have you been in Kansas City?|
(Cindy)Where are you from?
(Cindy)Arenít you sorry every winter that you came here?
(Mike)(Laughs.) Yes. The weather is something you never get used to.
(Cindy)Why did you pick Kansas City?
(Mike)We had relatives who came to Kansas City in 1922, the DiMaggio family. My grandma had three brothers who immigrated to Kansas City ó my grandmother was the only one who stayed.
(Cindy)What did you do when you first came here?
(Mike)I worked at Boyle Meat Co. for 19 years. In 1988 we opened as a wholesale company and then later we decided to start a retail store.
(Cindy)Who is ďweĒ?
(Mike)Itís a family business. There was my brother Sal at the beginning and now itís my brother Frank and my two kids, Frankie and Anthony. We opened the retail store in 1993.
(Cindy)What did you sell then?
(Mike)Mostly sausages. We make our own sausages ó Italian sausage, Polish sausage, Sicilian sausage and brats. Thatís (sausages) our No. 1 seller.
(Cindy)Most of the products in the store are imported from Italy. How do you decide what to carry? Do you taste them all before you buy them?
(Mike)No. I remember the names. I know them from Italy.
(Cindy)Tell us about the olive oil in these big cans with the pictures on the front.
(Mike)They are mostly Sicilian oils. They have a more robust flavor, for people who like that. I like the heavier tasting oils for soups. We sell quite a few cans of oil a week. People are more educated today through all the TV food shows.
(Cindy)Has your business increased since Food Network became so popular?
(Mike)Oh yes, sure.
(Cindy)A couple of years ago you added this wine section. Where are the wines from?
(Mike)Eighty percent are from Italy, a few are French and a couple are German. Quite a few are from Sicily.
(Cindy)What are your favorite ones from Sicily?
(Mike)Nero díAvola ó thatís a red wine, Thatís one of my favorites. I try them all so I can give people some knowledge. These ones (pointing at three bottles of white wine) are also from Sicily.
(Cindy)ďCatarratto,Ē ďinzolia,Ē ďgrecanicoĒ ó Iíve never heard those names before.
(Mike)Those are the names of grapes that grow in Sicily. Most of the wines in here cost around $10.
People donít want to spend more than $10 on wine.
(Cindy)Have you added any new products recently?
(Mike)Yes, I just brought in bunch of new pastas. Lot of flavored pasta, hereís a lemon pepper linguine.
We carry carnaroli for risotto ó people know about arborio, but carnaroli is even better.
(Cindy)What makes it better?
(Mike)I donít know. It just is.
And Iíve added a lot of sauces in the last six months. People donít care about the price with the sauces if they are the best quality and ready to serve.
The bruschetta toppings are also popular now.
(Cindy)It must be weird, when something has been around forever and then in one day, everybody in America discovers it.
(Mike)Yes. The same thing happened with pesto sauces. Twenty years ago nobody in America knew what is was, now everybody wants it. Itís easy: you cook the pasta, dump the water out, toss with pesto sauce, done.
Thatís not true of regular pasta sauces ó people think if itís in a jar you can just dump it on the noodles. No. It needs to cook a while first.
(Cindy)Olive bars are now in supermarkets, but youíve had olives and olive salads in barrels for a long time. Do you brine your own olives?
(Mike)No. We buy them from the East Coast, but we make our own olive salad. Over here is the octopus salad and seafood salad ó thatís a mix of calamari, clams and baby octopus.
(Cindy)Iím surprised you sell enough of that in Kansas City to keep it in stock.
(Mike)Oh, yes. I was out for about 10 days, and I was going crazy.
(Cindy)What is your best seller in the pastry case?
(Mike)Cannolis, by far. We make them here.
(Cindy)Why is good pasta better than cheap pasta?
(Mike)When you cook cheap pasta, it becomes like glue. Good pasta is made from better flour.
(Cindy)Whatís your favorite pasta?
(Cindy)Never heard of it ó it looks like fat drinking straws. What do you do with it?
(Mike)I eat it with fresh tomato sauce.
(Cindy)How do you make it?
With fresh tomatoes, probably romas. They have less water.
(Cindy)What do you do with the tomatoes?
(Mike)To make the sauce?
You fry the onions in a little olive oil. Add your tomatoes, let it cook for a while, add a little water. Salt and pepper. Takes time. You want a good sauce, it doesnít cook in 15 minutes. It should cook three hours.
And of course donít forget your fresh basil. Some people donít like basil in the sauce, but even if you take it out at the end, you gotta have it in there while itís cooking.
(Cindy)OK. After you cook the pasta and drain it, do you mix it with the sauce in a big bowl, or put the sauce on top of the noodles on the plate?
(Mike)It depends on the type of pasta. Short pasta like penne is easier to mix together with the sauce in your dish.
(Cindy)How would you do it with zitoni?
(Mike)I would mix some of the sauce into the noodles in the pot, then put some more sauce on top.
(Cindy)Fresh grated Parmesan on top?
(Mike)No. I would use a dry ricotta called ricotta salata and grate it over the top. It grates like a romano.
(Cindy)What kind of pasta do you use Parmesan on?
(Mike)(Shakes his head.)
(Cindy)No Parmesan on pasta?
(Mike)No, no. No.
(Cindy)You sell it ó what do you do with it?
(Mike)We grate it on soups. And eat it with salami and bread.
(Cindy)Would you like to expand even more?
(Mike)Yes, I do not have enough room in here now. I like the market, it draws a lot of people. I might move across the street.
(Cindy)What would you do if you had more space?
(Mike)More cooked food. Maybe a little restaurant.
Reach Cindy Hoedel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/cindyhoedel.