The gift of food is a safe bet for everyone on your holiday shopping list, and choosing the best ingredients from local vendors is an easy way to show your loved ones that you care about them. Luckily, Westerly is home to several specialty food stores, featuring options as affordable as they are delicious.
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For the foodie in your life, or for the health nut who must also eat, your first stop in town should be Capizzano’s Olive Oils and Vinegars. Stephen and Suzanne both come from healthcare backgrounds, and bring this experience to the forefront of their store’s offerings as well, with one of the core beliefs being “food as medicine.”
After receiving a gift of extra virgin olive oil one year, Stephen and Suzanne decided to research it, learning about the health benefits and the industry and the people who work tirelessly to ensure that the best product is being crafted. “During that time, I also read the UC Davis Study, which found that up to 69% of what’s being sold as extra virgin olive oil is not actually pure olive oil at all, but a mix of other oils and ingredients,” Stephen explained. “So we developed relationships with people who really care about olives.”
“This is an exciting time for us,” Suzanne shared, explaining that Caizzano’s has recently begun serving on the Health, Nutrition, and Education core team that is part of the Yale University’s olive institute with the School of Public Health department. “They’re developing a program just for olive oil and its health benefits.”
Capizzano’s regularly offers classes and visits from groups like Pfizer chemistry team and culinary students, to help their customers gain a better understanding of what EVOO is really all about. “Many people don’t even know that olive oil on its own it should taste good and have a full aroma and a fruitiness,” Suzanne explained. “And each kind can come with different intensities of flavors, varying from mild, medium, to robust,” Stephen added.
If the complexity and deliciousness of olive oil is a surprise to some people, certainly the sweetness and variety of the vinegars sold at Capizzano’s may be as well. In fact, they’re so sweet that they can be mixed with club soda and made into unique mocktails, appropriate for all ages and contains less sugar than soda. In addition to crafting beverages, the vinegars can be used for dressing salads and cooking all sorts of food, bringing out the unique flavor of each ingredient while also providing new dimensions on their own. Suzanne says their herb infused traditional balsamic is very popular and can be used in salads, roasted vegetables, or pasta, and highly recommends that everyone try her own signature blend of Sicilian Lemon Coconut Balsamic.
Another delightful surprise awaiting customers are orange- or lemon-rind stuffed olives. Even if you think you don’t like olives, these are worth a try. Processed differently (or as Stephen says, “processed the way they should be”), the olives are clean and noticeably less salty, offering a lovely, subtle citrus bite.
Stephen believes that the key is paying attention to the details, in caring about your product and your customer, and this mindset is what sets Capizzano’s apart from what you might find at a chain store.
Opening in June of this year, the Cheese Corner is a more recent addition to Westerly’s foodie scene, but has wasted no time in building a reputation based on delicious, personalized service. Paula LaBarre and Lisa Buono, family friends and connected through their work at Dick’s World of Wines right next door, truly love what they do and it shows. Offering approximately 100 cheese, with 80 year-round staples and the rest being specialty options based on availability or request, the Cheese Corner is more than a cheese shop, it’s a cheese destination.
Paula, having owned a cheese shop in Jamestown before, wanted to offer a unique experience to Westerly. “Our goal is to educate and allow customers to taste products for themselves, not just provide pre-packaged, expensive products, but to give suggestions, allow for sampling, and let people decide for themselves.”
Many customers come in looking for recommendations, which Paula and Lisa are happy to provide. “It’s a great learning experience,” Paula explained, laughing as she added that of course, they do sometimes get visits from enthusiastic “cheese heads.”
To ensure that there’s something for everyone, from novice to connoisseur, Paula works with different distributors all over the world to give customers a great selection. Limited edition items are also available to try out during the summer and holiday season, such as specialty cheeses directly from France and Italy. With each sample and purchase, customers can fill out a notecard with their various preferences listed, to be kept at the counter of the store until their next visit.
Meanwhile, Lisa designs the cheese platters, which are available with 24 hours notice and completely customizable to your personal taste. Lisa also designed the look and layout of the store, refinishing and repurposing furniture found at the Jonnycake Center and Blue Mitten as a way to help other local businesses and also create a unique environment in the process.
Man cannot live by cheese alone, however, which is why the Cheese Corner also works to pair their products with beverages from Dick’s World of Wine, olive oils and vinegars from Capizzano’s, Dipollino’s Soupy, and local honey. The Cheese Corner is also offering an annex at Gray Sail for the winter, so that “hopheads” can become cheeseheads during their visit to the brewery. “We’re all about team spirit,” Paula shared. “We’re very a family oriented, community-minded business.”
And no holiday would be complete without a stop at Westerly Packing Co. for some soupy, specialty meats and all kind of other culinary delights! Whether it’s for your holiday feast or to gift to a loved one, they’ve got all kinds of delicious food. And for their newest venture, the Westerly Packing Co. has purchased a farm and is now raising its own animals as they’ve noticed the growing demand for all natural meats which can be purchased whole and cut, or by the pound.
And if you’re looking for specialty Italian products? Westerly Packing has you covered. With a large selection of imported Italian product, they’ve got specialty pastas, imported olive oils and vinegars, tomato sauces, Italian water and soft drinks, coffee, cookies and candies along with a variety of imported cheeses and olives. They’ve brought Italy to Westerly for all of your Italian needs.
Looking to send some soupy out of state for the holidays? The generous folks at Westerly Packing will ship any of their hot, extra hot, mild or sweet soupy ¾ pound sticks to a loved one desperately in need of some sausage. Although refrigeration makes it harder and last longer, Sophia Trombino, whose family owns the store, said it doesn’t require refrigeration, making it an ideal gift for shipping. Yum!
With hardly more than a week left to get your shopping done, be sure to stop by Capizzano’s Olive Oils and Vinegars, the Cheese Corner and Westerly Packing Co. to put the finishing touches on your list – but don’t be surprised if you find yourself coming back all year long!