The Grocery List: Costco

Costco is a novelty for foreigners. The first time I walked in, I could not get over the jumbo-sized packaging and the aisles of “stuff”. In particular, I still remember a package of Heinz Ketchup in what looked like a bottle on steroids! I found it very entertaining, but I assumed for a long time it was a place for American specialties and cheap household items.

The assumption is fundamentally wrong: over the years I have found at Costco some of the best Italian food ever. Some made a brief appearance and then disappeared, but many are here to stay! Here’s the items you can’t miss at the Bay Area Costco stores…

Prosciutto: The best prosciutto available in town, at the best price! You can recognize the “real” Parma prosciutto by the crown symbol that brands the original product. The crown bears the writing “Parma” inside, and in Italy the outer skin of prosciutto is actually branded with this symbol. In general, Parma prosciutto is the best quality you can buy, as it is a denomination regulated by the Italian law. When buying prosciutto, you want to make sure the leg is branded or the package bears the crown.

Costco- Prosciutto

Citterio imports original Parma prosciutto, and on the West Coast this package is carried only at Costco. The 12oz. package actually costs less than it does in Italy! The label says you should finish the package in three days upon opening it, but in reality you can preserve it for much longer if you take care to cover the prosciutto left inside with the paper they use to separate the slices, and then store it in the fridge inside a zip-lock bag. In this way, the prosciutto lasts up to three weeks. Costco also carries the whole leg, if you foresee large parties and hungry crowds!

Mozzarella di Bufala: Garofalo is this small dairy producer in the countryside of Naples, and they make quite excellent mozzarella di bufala, which again, Costco seems to be the only one carrying in the West Coast. The package I find here contains four perfect mozzarella that can be devoured as-is, or served in a salad, over pizza, or in a caprese dish. In all cases: YUMMY!

Costco- Mozzarella di Bufala

Mozzarella: Mozzarella Fresca is packaged in a three-count blister and preserved in water. It’s a good product, not as dry as the regular “dry” mozzarella store-bought, and it makes a perfect ingredient for really good pizza!

Costco- Mozzarella

Parmigiano (Parmesan Cheese): After 3 years of going back and forth between Cesenatico and San Francisco with a suitcase filled with vacuum-sealed cheese, I realized Costco carries Parmigiano! Parmigiano is another protected product whose branding is regulated by Italian law. In this case, a parmesan cheese wheel will bear the writing “Parmigiano Reggiano” in pre-punched dots on the outside shell, certifying a certain production and aging method. The lower quality Italian product, Grana Padano, is also regulated but it is considered not as good as parmigiano. Costco carries original Parmigiano and Grana Padano in chunks, and it also sells Parmigiano shaved and grated!

Costco- Parmigiano and Tortelli

A last thing, not always on the shelves: Giovanni Rana Cheese Tortelli you see here- delicious

Costco
Various locations around the Bay Area

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