Tucked away on the corner of Edmonton Trail and 20 Avenue. N.E., the Italian Supermarket is a small and unassuming brick building that many people easily pass by.

Inside, however, is a colourful and busy supermarket run by the Di Gaeta family, three generations of Italian-Canadians whose passions are good food, good conversation, and good old-fashioned pizza.

A taste of the good life

Marco Di Gaeta, a third-generation family member, and employee, spends his Sundays making traditional pizzas in a large stone oven. He has developed a seamless process of stoking the fire, stretching the dough, and preparing a wide variety of fresh toppings.Marco1 editThe pizzas at the Italian Supermarket in northeast Calgary are entirely homemade, starting with the pizza dough. Marco Di Gaeta stretches each piece individually before topping with fresh ingredients. Photo by Sam Ridgway.

The smell fills the store, enticing several customers to stray from their shopping and stop for a bite. Many customers are regulars, and Marco leans over the counter to chat with many of them, checking in on how their meals are and catching up on their lives.

“You get a touch of true Italian family life,” says Marco. “You may enter a stranger, but leave invited to a family dinner.”

The welcoming environment and personal touch aren’t lost on the people who visit the store. People waiting for their food are talking between tables, and often share their different pizzas. One elderly woman offers a slice, exclaiming, “there’s too much for me,” to anyone around her, but orders a second to take home for later.

“I think it tastes better when we share,” she says as she offers me my own slice.

A story worth sharing

The legacy of the Italian Supermarket was started in 1964 after Giuseppe Di Gaeta opened the store. After emigrating from Italy with his wife and three children, Giuseppe worked construction for years, trying to give his family a good life. He finally saved enough to open an Italian grocery store where he and his friends could go to find the things they missed from home.

Fifty-three years later, Giuseppe Di Gaeta’s grandson, Joe, works alongside his brother Marco at the supermarket. Joe believes that their store gives something special to Italian Calgarians.

Pizza1-editFresh basil and green olives complete this pizza, a favourite of the day with many customers at the Italian Supermarket in northeast Calgary. Each ingredient is carefully chosen and arranged by Marco Di Gaeta before being served. Photo by Sam Ridgway.

“At one point in time, we supplied families with staple food items,” he says. “We still supply those staple items, but it has become more of a novelty or treat for those wanting a real Italian experience. We supply culture, tradition, and heritage.”

Marco agrees, adding that Calgary as a whole is enriched by family businesses.

“Businesses like this are important because they bring a truer sense of culture and community that you don’t get from big brand stores.”

Marco3Marco Di Gaeta stokes the traditional stone pizza oven, creating a balanced heat with a technique that has taken years to hone. Photo by Sam Ridgway.

The family’s passion for the business and the community is shared by nearly every employee, most of whom are family members as well.

As you walk around the store, you can find nearly half a dozen smiling family members ready to talk to you about produce or life, and offer samples and advice to go.

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