By BEN STODDARD
From Magma hot sauce to hundreds of cheese varieties, Vincenzo’s has it all.
The independent grocery store, at 150 Caroline St. S. in Waterloo, focuses primarily on imported foods and hard to find items. It is also known for competitive prices and its sandwiches.
The store first opened in 1967 as Italian Canadian Foods in the home of Vincenzo and Rita Caccioppoli. The store is currently owned and operated by Vincenzo’s sons, Tony and Carmine, who renamed the store Vincenzo’s after they took over in 1992.
“We just opened our current location last year,” Tony Caccioppoli said. The store remained in Vincenzo’s home until 1992 when it moved to Belmont in Kitchener. “When the store started, it was mostly just Italian customers; barely a word of English was spoken in the store. Now we get pretty much everyone.”
The second you step inside, you are greeted by foreign music on the radio. The first thing you see is their assorted chocolates, at least half of which is imported. There are kitchen gadgets to the left and Asian sauces to the right. The store is crowded with racks of food and small aisles, but it’s cleanly organized and there’s still enough room to move around.
Customers are never more than six metres away from one of Vincenzo’s fresh food counters. They have pizza, pasta, lasagna, meat and everything you can find in a regular grocery store. They also have an ice cream bar near their frozen food section, which includes all the regular flavours as well as pineapple, hazelnut and pumpkin pie.
“Our most popular items are our prepared foods, especially our sandwiches,” Caccioppoli said. “We have over 700 kinds of cheeses. We get even more around the holidays – especially Swiss cheeses. We try to get every kind of cheese available. Some is locally made and some is from the other side of the world. We also have 150 kinds of olive oil.”
For snacks, they have everything from common chips and nuts to rare items you wouldn’t think to look for. There are maple roasted soybeans, cinnamon popcorn, and even candied salmon. They have a wide variety of spreads, including hazelnut and vanilla spread, plenty of imported jams and a large variety of mustards – even green mustard.
There are racks full of couscous and other forms of rice. There is also a large variety of pasta in every shape, brand and even colour. Some of their pasta is even striped with five colours on each ribbon. There is lots of pasta sauce available as well, much of it imported from Italy.
Customers can also browse a rack full of barbecue and hot sauces. The hot sauces range from “Pappy’s sauce for babies” to “Mega Death Sauce” and “Jerry’s Brain Damage Mind Blowing hot sauce.” Another sauce called “Magma hot sauce” is clear with red liquids that flow around when you shake the bottle. Unique salts and spices include oak-smoked sea salt, habanero blend and green peppercorn.
Vincenzo’s is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, but it’s closed on Sundays. To find out more about the store’s history or read their prepared food menu, visit www.vincenzosonline.com.