Our first Saturday in Milan, so of course it’s time to take a trip to the grocery store for basics. What an experience!
We collected our cloth bags, ventured to the neighborhood bar (which doubles as a cafe in the morning where you can buy your bus/train tickets and get a cup of coffee and a brioche), and purchased a ‘caffè,’ a brioche (chocolate of course, to start the weekend right), and ‘l’autobus biglietti’ (tickets for the tram that let you get off and on as much as you need for 75 minutes). On to the tram! 6 stops later and we are at the nearby grocery superstore, Esselunga, which is one of the large grocery stores that also carries small kitchen utensils, school supplies, etc. The place was packed! Folks are slowly returning to Milan after summer vacations. Like the Aldi stores in America, you put a coin in your shopping cart slot to pull the cart out and use it- the coin is returned when you return the cart. This certainly cuts down on runaway carts! A few observations:
- the little coffee bar in the grocery store was a magical orchestra of gestures, espresso steam sounds, crisp white uniforms, bright blue hats and Italians getting their coffee fix before the daunting task of shopping;
- the meat department also had men in nice white uniforms with large dry hamhocks hanging all down the row- take a number, wait and get your sliced meat and cheese. You can also get pre-sliced meat and cheeses, of course, just like in the US. We were not prepared to tackle the personal back and forth of ordering meats and cheeses by weight and description, nor were we ready to wait in line for 30 numbers ahead of us, but the system seemed orderly;
- an entire row, both sides (and we are talking a long row) was dedicated to every type of pasta imaginable. That’s all there was in the row. How much fun will this be to try all the different pastas shapes and sizes? Barilla, the brand in the blue box at our grocery stores in Georgia, was prevalent, but with many more pasta options available;
- the smallest block of parmigiano reggiano was huge and pricey, but I bought it with the intention of making a risotto, which is one of the common dishes in Milano. In fact, a recent dinner (consisting of 5 courses to be described in another entry) included a sausage risotto that was to die for. The next time I go to the grocery on a less crowded day, I plan to try to mimic that dish. Delizioso!!
- rotisserie chicken was more expensive than in the US grocery stores. In the US, it seems to be a ‘loss leader,’ but here it’s around $9;
- important difference about buying fresh produce here- you place a plastic glove on your hand, and never touch the fruit or vegetables with your bare hand. You select it, bag it in one of their plastic bags, note the number associated with that product, go weigh it and punch in the number, and then slap the receipt on your plastic bag. Thankfully they have pictures of the numbered items, so you can be sure you are associating the right number with what you intend to purchase. Carote was easy to confirm!
The trip took almost exactly 75 minutes, so off we hopped back onto the tram, and back to the apartment! First grocery trip in the bag!