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Buon appetito at Italian Corner Market
Date January 24, 2006

EAST PROVIDENCE - When people follow their bliss, good things usually result. Bliss for Osvaldo Pirro & iacute;, owner of the Italian Corner Market, comes in the form of delicious and truly authentic Italian food. What joy for the rest of us!

His retail store is filled with Italian favorites that he either makes on-site from scratch or imports from Italy. His homemade ravioli, homemade gnocchi, authentically prepared lasagna and freshly baked focaccia pugliese for instance, are just a few of the tempting treats to be found at his "corner" market located just off the beaten track in East Providence.

Born in Milan, Italy, Osvaldo worked in one of Milan's best gourmet food shops every day after school from age 12 to 18. "That is where I built my love, my knowledge of food," explained Osvaldo.

He went on to work in restaurants, hotels and eventually started his first retail shop in California. From there Osvaldo moved back to Italy, exiting the food business and entering the world of computers. During that time, he and his wife Angela fell in love with Rhode Island while on vacation and eventually moved here.

"I ran the computer company for 13 years in Rhode Island but it was too much stress. I went back to where my heart was, my love for food," said Osvaldo.

In November 2004, after selling his computer business, Osvaldo opened the Italian Corner Market. Last year he brought in his friend, Mario Bellotti, who also grew up in Milan, to help him with the market. Mario has worked at such popular Rhode Island restaurants as Raphael Bar Risto, the Post Office Café and Ristorante Pizzico and shares Osvaldo's passion for food. Together they are making sure that the fare offered at the Italian Corner Market is truly Italian.

"We make the authentic Italian lasagna with no ricotta cheese. We are making things the real way: the caserecchio and focaccina bread, the manicotti di magro, the mantovani gnocchi, the ravioli," said Osvaldo.

Together, the two chefs are also teaching cooking classes as a way to impart their love of Italian cooking to others. The classes are part history lesson, part cooking demonstration. The first four-week session, currently going on at the store on Thursday evenings, centers around pasta. The categories include quick sauces, making fresh pasta and pastas with vegetable sauces. One class will be devoted to the many varieties of gnocchi and the final class will cover lasagna, tortellini and linguine with clams.

"With every recipe we make, we also teach the history of the recipe, where it comes from, why and why does it have particular ingredients. It is nice when you eat something, to know its history," explained Osvaldo. Mario's experience as a sommelier is an added benefit as he can recommend wines for the various dishes.

At each session, students sit at tables set with silverware and tablecloths and sample the food prepared by Mario and Osvaldo. The demonstration stove is set up under a TV camera, so students can look up to a television screen and see exactly what is happening on the stovetop.

Paul Staite is the manager of Tennis Rhode Island, just up the street from the Italian Corner Market, and he's taking the four-week cooking course with his girlfriend. "We have enjoyed it tremendously," he said. "We found the history of the different regions to be very interesting and the food was really delicious."

One of Mr. Staite's favorite's was a dish served at his first class: a pastry cup filled with gorgonzola cheese and shaved chocolate.

Plans to expand

The market is expanding into the space next door within the next several months. In the meantime, shelves are conveniently placed on wheels so they can be moved for the cooking classes. Looking around the market, you can find over 20 different types of olive oil, a wide variety of balsamic vinegars aged from five years and up and over 10 different types of espresso.

There is every shape of imported dried pasta imaginable, even gluten-free or rice pastas for people with restricted diets. There is a wide variety of fresh ravioli, like crab meat or spicy Calabrese made with hot sausage, and at least six kinds of homemade gnocchi. The sausage, like the breads and pastas, is made on site by hand.

The Italian Corner market does a brisk lunchtime business with homemade sandwiches filled with imported Parma proscuitto and the like, as well as homemade soups. Busy parents might appreciate the "meals ready to eat" more than anything else. It's not Army fare, but homemade pastas like lasagna and manicotti that are packaged for easy re-heating at home.

Osvaldo will soon be heading back to Italy where he travels about four times a year. During his visits he shops for the market and visits the food shows in order to stay informed in his trade. There is no question that he is passionate about food, as are those who work around him in the market. The atmosphere is friendly and there are plenty of choices for the food lover in everyone, especially those with an enthusiasm for all things Italian.

Italian Corner Market

10 Boyd Ave., East Providence (just off Rte. 6)

431-1737 or www.italiancorner-ri.com

Open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

__________________________________________________________________

By Genie McPherson Trevor

life@eastbaynewspapers.com


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