The specialty market is a dying breed. With the exception of bakeries, which will always have a home in the land of cakes, cookies and bread items, most specialty food stores—carrying just one category of foods—have given way to the one-stop supermarket. I’m not arguing with the logic of it because most of us don’t have the luxury of several hours to hop from store to store every time we need to go grocery shopping. Nonetheless, cheese shops, butchers, and green markets are a rare treat when I do have the time to visit them.
That’s why I was particularly thrilled to learn that my new apartment was a quick seven minute walk away from a specialty Italian market called Glorioso’s. Now, this is more than just a cheese shop or a butcher, but it’s a definitely not your typical grocery store. First of all, it’s arranged in an inviting manner, with an entrance that brings you down a few stairs, so you feel as if you’re stepping into another place, perhaps the cellar of an old Italian restaurant (although the windows on the edges prevent it from feeling dark or dusty). To your right is a small assortment of produce—just the bare essentials you might need to accompany one meal or so. To your left is a pleasant seating area where you can get right down to eating whatever it is you’ve just purchased (additional seating outside is also a nice touch during the warmer months).
In front of you is the butcher and cheesemonger section, with easily a hundred different types of cured meats and cheeses from around the world. You can either browse the coolers and grab whatever you’d like yourself, or you can step up to the deli counter and order the precise amount that you need, watching the butcher carefully slice it to your desired thickness for sandwiches, Sunday dinners or hor d’eourves trays. At one end of the deli counter, you’ll find the prepared food section, which offers pasta salads, calzones, lasagnas and more, for reasonable prices. Behind the counter there’s also a full kitchen where you can get any number of pasta dishes made to order. As if that weren’t enough, there’s another counter that provides housemade meatballs, sauces and pizza doughs, so that you can take them home and prepare them as you wish. This is food I’d be comfortable serving at a dinner party, but just as comfortable throwing together for a quick weeknight dinner.
The center of the store is full of various goods including bread from a local bakery, coffee from several local roasters, and fancy imported canned fish. The second room of Glorioso’s is half-filled with a wine shop and half-filled with every item you could possibly need for Italian cooking. Homemade raviolis, fresh pastas, gourmet sauces and olive oils, salts, baking supplies and even cooking utensils. As a cook, I love just walking through the aisles and examining all these interesting products. I almost feel like I’m back in New York, meandering through the narrow aisles, surprised to find all manner of imported items crammed into a modest space.
Glorioso’s has made life easy for me in so many ways. For one, it’s the closest grocery store whenever I need to grab one or two items that I’ve run out of for a recipe—say milk or an onion. For another, it’s my go-to place for prepared food because it’s practically homemade, and it gives me the ability to put as much or as little effort into cooking as I want. If I felt like making my own ravioli (which I’ve done with my mother several times), I’d get my ingredients at Glorioso’s, but if I felt like just plopping a few frozen ravioli in a pot of water and topping it off with some jarred sauce once it was finished, I’d also get those items at Glorioso’s.
One might expect this place to have disappeared years ago, what with the competition of nearby chain grocery stores and sandwich shops. Yet, at nearly seventy years old, Glorioso’s is a piece of Milwaukee heritage still going strong today. It’s a testament to the Italian immigrants who helped to make this city great, and it continues to feed residents of all cultural backgrounds with delicious, affordable food. I feel blessed to have landed an apartment so near to such a rich amenity, and I plan to sample as much of this tasty food as I can over the next several months. If you’re ever in the area, you must make a stop here.