Draeger’s is possibly the most upscale grocery store in the Bay Area, and from what I can see walking around the aisles, it’s well worth its reputation! In fact, Draeger’s carries some products I have seen only at very specialized Italian specialty stores, and other items I can barely find anywhere else!
Let’s start with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. The only selection as extensive that I’ve seen was in very specialized Italian stores, like The Pasta Shop in Berkeley. At Draeger’s, you’ll find the precious vinegar selection under lock at the very front of the store, a beauty!
The Rolls Royce of Italian extra virgin olive oils, Laudemio, is on the shelves along with other delicious oils like the Badia a Coltibuono. Alas, they still don’t carry my favorite brand, Coppini, but I am hoping someone might be so kind to suggest the import!
In terms of canned goods, the selection is similar to what is available in other stores: As Do Mar tuna, Ortiz anchovies, and also a great selection of anchovy paste!
For those evening when preparing tomato sauce from scratch seems daunting, here’s the perfect solution, and an exclusive Draeger’s import: Passata di Pomodoro Bio Fiorentini. It’s certified organic and ready to be used!
During winter, very few foods are more comforting for an Italian than polenta. Making polenta, though, is a tough process, and it requires the finest ingredients! A full selection of polenta flours (corn-based flours) is available from Moretti, from the hard to find taragna flour to the convenient fast-cooking polenta mix (called lampo). Don’t the packages look like candies’???
Amarene Fabbri are a staple gelato accompaniment. You find them served only in the finest gelaterie nowadays, but they used to be a real luxury for “regular” families. I remember as a kid my grandma used to keep a vase at home, and she’d give me one amarena if I behaved… You can find Baba’ al Rum from Toschi in jar, too! Baba’ are small rum-soaked little pastries shaped like mushrooms. They are another fantastic gelato topping, and although not ideal for children (there is a LOT of rum!), they are truly delicious!
Last, but not least: Baci Perugina. As a teenager these were the equivalent of the Chinese fortune cookies: I would unwrap one sure to find the future of my love life encrypted in the little poetries that are in each piece. I still find the little quotes romantic! I always keep a box at home for those impromptu dinner invitations, so I can bring something that is typically Italian, hard to find, and truly delicious!
Several Bay Area locations