My ortolano in via dei Neri

I buy my frutta e verdura (fruits and vegetables) at the ortolano (green grocer) on via dei Neri. His mother, who is from Naples, works in the shop with him most mornings. I always know that his shop is open when I see some of the frutta on display outside. I smile each time I walk in because he wears a grembiule (apron) with the brand name of an Italian apple on it, Melinda.

I love buying my frutta e verdura from him because he's always very honest. If something isn't really good, he'll tell me that it's average. Sometimes I'm swayed and won't buy it and other times I'll just get it anyway. When he says it's average, it's still better than what I've found at other places.

He doesn't want customers to touch the frutta e verdura because he says that people handle things improperly and can ruin the frutta e verdura. He likes to pick out the frutta e verdura for me, but if I ever want something else, he never has a problem with that. I know of a few ortolani who get upset if you don't like what they pick for you.

I asked him today if he had any riccia (curly leafed lettuce) because Alessandro loves it. He explained to me how it's not the season for it and how some people still sell it, but he won't sell it unless it's of good quality. He told me to try the romana (Romaine lettuce) because it was really good today.

He has already steered me right on many occasions. I now purchase aglio rosso (red garlic) because it has a sweeter taste and is easier to digest. I can't bring myself to buy the regular aglio any more now.

We talked today about the importance of good quality food. I told him how I appreciated how he doesn't try to sell me things that aren't good. His prices are pretty comparable to the mercato (market), but there is a lot less risk involved. I can't count the number of times I've come home with frutta that wasn't as good as I thought it was.

Not only is it more convenient for me to walk around the corner to my ortolano, but the quality of the frutta e verdura is also far superior. I still go often to the mercato, but no longer do I purchase much frutta e verdura there.

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