Andy’s father established Masellis Supermarket in Toronto after migrating from Puglia, Italy in 1959. Around the time of its establishment, Masellis primarily attracted Italian immigrants looking for Italian products. Andy discusses the importance of geographic specificity, history, and tradition in Italian fare, and the products in Masellis reinforce these ideas. For instance, when someone who sampled an olive oil they enjoyed in Tuscany, they come to Masellis asking for Tuscan olive oil, not Italian. This sort of regional differentiation is common in Italian cuisine; certain regions have a long history of producing certain foods, and the regional tradition behind these products comes to have a strong influence on the way in which customers shop for Italian food.  One important point Andy conveys is the concept of “Packed in Italy.” Companies buy olives from Spain and Portugal and bring them to Italy for processing, advertising the olive oil as “Packed in Italy” as opposed to “Product in Italy.” This simultaneously lowers the price of these olive oils, and it appeals to customers because a connection to Italy is made, however small. It evokes the exotic. Exoticism plays a key role in why Canadians shop for Italian food as it signifies that which is not immediately available. Take for instance Mario Batali’s Marinara. The most noticeable element of the label is a picture of Mario Batali, a famous chef who specializes in Italian cuisine. This particular sauce is not meant to appeal specifically to those who identify as Italian, but the larger North American audience; as Batali is an American chef, it would be mostly North Americans who recognize him. The phrase “Crafted from Imported San Marzano” evokes a certain exoticism as it is not from the immediate geographic vicinity, but from abroad. These elements fuse the familiar and the exotic together to attract Canadians wishing to cook Italian cuisine at home, not Italian-Canadians in particular. The numerous other products labelled “Made in Italy,” “Authentico Italiano,” and so on bring forth a notion of exoticism as well, highlighting foods that one would not likely come across at larger chain grocery stores.

Photo 2016-03-21, 1 14 05 AM
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Product of Italy
Photo 2016-03-21, 1 16 10 AM
Penne Rigate
Photo 2016-03-21, 1 17 33 AM
Gigi Moss Mushroom – Product of Italy
Advertisements