Places that Matter

DiPalo's Fine Foods

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DiPalo's Fine Foods, photo by Elena Martinez
DiPalo's Fine Foods, photo by Elena Martinez
DiPalo's Fine Foods, photo by Elena Martinez
DiPalo's Fine Foods, photo by Elena Martinez
Little Italy market offering fine foods and olive oil tastings
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Place Matters Profile

In 1903, the great-grandfather of the current owner, Savino Di Palo, embarked on a journey that changed his life and the lives of the future generations of his family. Between 1880 and 1920, there was a mass emigration of Italians to the United States, and Savino made the decision to immigrate to this country. Upon doing so, this cheese-maker left behind his family, his farm, and all that he was accustomed to in the small mountain village of Montemelone, Basilicata, Italy. After settling in New York City’s Little Italy, he opened a latteria (dairy store) in 1910. It wasn’t until 1914 that his family finally joined him in the United States. Working together with his children, Savino inspired them to preserve the traditions of his homeland, Basilicata, Italy.

In 1925, Savino’s daughter, Concetta, after having just given birth to her second son, continued this tradition by opening up a latteria of her own with the support of her husband Luigi. The latteria, called Di Palo’s, was located on the corner of Mott and Grand Streets, within a half block from her father’s shop. Always bustling with Italian immigrants, this small four-hundred square-foot store sold exclusively cheeses that were handmade by Luigi and Concetta, and fresh milk ladled from large milk cans which were delivered daily from nearby farms.

Over the years, Concetta and Luigi, along with their sons Michael and Savino, slowly increased their product line to include southern Italian cheeses such as caciocavallo, provolone, and pecorino romano. Despite struggling through some of this country’s most difficult times, the store survived the Depression era, the world wars, and a changing community.

In the 1960’s the influx of Italians to this country decreased dramatically as immigration policies shifted. Over the next twenty years the Italian community in Little Italy diminished in numbers dramatically. It was then that the current owner, Lou DiPalo, realized that the footprint of the Italian immigrant that had been established in New York City’s Little Italy needed to be preserved.  When his father, Savino, known as Sam, retired, he, along with his brother Salvatore and sister, Marie realized that in order to move forward they had to first look back. It had become apparent that they needed to continue one of the greatest contributions that Italian immigrants made to the United States- the appreciation of traditional foods. His mission became rediscovering what his great grandfather, Savino DiPalo, left behind in Italy in 1903. By making frequent trips to Italy, he continued to seek out the authentic tastes and select traditional products. He visited farms during harvest times and tried out their products.  Today DiPalo Fine Foods carries an array of cheeses, olive oil, meats, and other Italian food products.