Domenica - Knowlton's little slice of Italy
By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg
The car above is a 50's area Fiat 500 Abarth, which graced Domenica's "Little Italy Fine Grocery" for a few weeks recently. Domenica's owners are Domenica Didio and her husband Giovanni Volpato, he a retired architect, she a retired gerontologist. So what do two Italians who have been married for quite a while as evidenced by a 32 year old son and a 28 year old daughter, do when they retire? They start a business. In this case the smartest Italian emporium this side of Verona.
In this picture is Domenica (left) and her assistant Monique Trahan with husband Giovanny in back. Since April 9, the store has pleased people in Knowlton with an ever growing variety of Italian specialties.
"We have a cheese from Italy that has a shelf-life of only seven days because it is so delicate. If you want it, you have to be on our special customer list", stated Domenica. For quite some time I have lusted after Quince marmelade which even the Montreal specialty stores seem to be unable to find. Here at Domenicas, it sat right on the shelf and I gleefully bought us some. They have cheeses, any specialty pasta you can dream of, olives and their oil, fine Italian sausages and meats, cookies and dry goods. As long as it is made in Italia, there is a good chance that this store carries it and if they don't now, be prepared to find it in the future.
Domenica has learned her love for food from her grandmother who dies during the ice storm in Montreal and the store is dedicated to her memory. "She taught me everything" muses Domenica. I started to give and take cooking classes in Italy from 1962 to 1972. Later, after they moved from New York ("We left after 9-11, it was just too much for us to bear') back to Montreal, where they had lived and worked for many years, she taught cooking classes at Loblaws, gave private classes and with her gereontology career winding dow, dreamed about having her own place.
"Last October we drove through Knowlton, fell in love with a house and bought it withinten minutes" she explained. Then my husband eventually found us this store and designed the interieur and decoration, we started ordering and then in April we opened".
"And how is the business doing ?", we asked. "It is doing well, people love to sit outside and savour one of our sandwhiches, we have a very special, well educated and discriminating audience here in Knowlton. It is all about the customers, if we give them what they wamt, stock a variety not readily available elsewhere locally, and educate them about new products, their uses and preparation, then we will continue to do as well as we are. And we have to be realistic about the pricing of the goods we sell. If we price ourselfes out of the market, they will not return".
Sounds like a sound policy for this lovely place smack in the center of town.