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Get your groceries from around the globe at these markets 

When a person or a family comes from afar to settle in a new place, they crave the familiarity of the food back home.

Fortunately for the diverse and growing immigrant communities in our community — and adventurous food lovers around town — Rochester is home to a variety of ethnic grocery stores that offer ingredients from around the world that are otherwise hard, or impossible, to find locally.

Take Korea Food Market in Henrietta, for instance. There, you’ll find frozen silkworms and grasshoppers that can be taken home and fried. That’s just one example. There are many more.

Here are three of my favorites and easy-to-prepare recipes based on ingredients you’ll find in their stores. Check them out and try something new.

click to enlarge Vincenzo Giordano at the cheese counter of VM Giordano Imports Inc., which he opened in the Rochester Public Market nearly 30 years ago. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Vincenzo Giordano at the cheese counter of VM Giordano Imports Inc., which he opened in the Rochester Public Market nearly 30 years ago.
VM Giordano Imports Inc. — European Cheese Shop
6 Public Market; 489-0371; giordanoimports.com

Giordano Imports Inc. — European Cheese Shop is a cornerstone of the Rochester Public Market that has offered a global variety of specialty cheeses, cured meats, and pantry items for nearly 30 years.

Its owner, Vincenzo Giordano, traces his origins to the tiny village of Rionero in the mountainous Basilicata province in the foot of Italy’s boot. He immigrated by boat with his parents in 1970, settling first in New York City, before finding the slower, agrarian pace of upstate that reminded them of home.
click to enlarge The cheese counter at VM Giordano Inc. — European Cheese Shop. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • The cheese counter at VM Giordano Inc. — European Cheese Shop.
His parents worked as tailors at the Hickey Freeman company and Bond Clothing, and Giordano studied at Jefferson High School and Monroe Community College and earned a degree in architecture from The University of Buffalo.

He spent his youth traveling to Italy to help his father with yearly olive harvesting, becoming familiar with the common European pantry staples that couldn’t be found in the United States.

click to enlarge More than just cheese, Giordano offers a variety of European pantry staples. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • More than just cheese, Giordano offers a variety of European pantry staples.
This love of foods, especially cheese, eventually led him to start selling the Italian goods for which he is known at the Public Market, at first as a weekend hobby. He opened his business as a single stand in the Public Market’s deli building offering Basilicata mineral water and extra virgin olive oil from his family’s olive orchards. But his knowledge of European food culture resonated with customers, and Giordano branched out to import foods from around the world and offer home-cooked meals.

“It’s a gastronomy where you know where the product came from, you know what you put in, what you did with it, and it is good for the health,” Giordano says. “You’re eating quality food.”

Giordano Imports's staggering variety of high-quality products from around the world — from seafood salads to cured meats — make it a foodie haven and a must-stop shop for this recipe:

Three Cheese Pasta with Olives
Serves 4-6

A simple good thing. This pasta recipe is quick and easy and can be made from a variety of different cheese and olives from Giordano Imports. My favorite is a combination of triple cream ricotta, Gorgonzola and burrata (which is technically two cheeses, but who’s counting) with the house-mixed Giordano pitted black olives with hot pepper and garlic.

But, it’s also fun to ask the team at Giordano’s what cheese and olive combination they think is best. Their expertise will guide you to something special.

You will need:
1 lb. dry durum semolina pasta (ideally gemelli or casarecce), boiled until al dente in salted water, drained, and lightly tossed in olive oil
4-6 balls of burrata (room temperature)
1/2 lb. triple cream ricotta
1/2 lb. Gorgonzola
1/2 lb. Giordano pitted black olives with hot pepper and garlic
2 cloves fresh garlic (roughly chopped)
1/4 cup of fresh basil (roughly chopped)
1/4 cup of half and half
1/4 cup of pasta water
2 tablespoons of Giordano olive oil (more for garnish)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

In a large pan on a medium heat, add the olive oil and fresh garlic and gently cook until the garlic begins to soften and color (3 minutes).

Add in the Gorgonzola and gently break apart the cheese as it heats up. Then add the half and half, black olives, and ricotta, and gently stir until heated through.
Blend in the cooked pasta, pasta water, and the majority of fresh basil (reserving some for garnish), mix well, adding salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a simmer, remove from heat and cover. Let stand for five minutes.

Plate each portion of pasta and top with a ball of burrata and garnish with fresh basil, fresh ground black pepper, and a drizzle of Giordano olive oil. Serve immediately.

click to enlarge The aisles at Dybowski Authentic Polish Market are filled with Polish foods and ingredients and has drawn customers from as far as Buffalo and Utica. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • The aisles at Dybowski Authentic Polish Market are filled with Polish foods and ingredients and has drawn customers from as far as Buffalo and Utica.
Dybowski Authentic Polish Market
1325 Hudson Ave.; 287-6107; facebook.com/dybowskimarket

click to enlarge Fresh pastries at Dybowski Authentic Polish Market. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Fresh pastries at Dybowski Authentic Polish Market.
Specializing in Polish foods and ingredients — from a large variety of smoked sausages, fresh sausage, and cured meats to dry goods, cheeses, dairy products, and beverages — Dybowski’s is smack in the historically Polish immigrant neighborhood surrounding Hudson Avenue south of Route 104.

“You cannot find these types of products in Rochester,” says its owner, Henry Dybowski.

A long and winding road led owner Dybowski to open his market. He left his hometown near Kielce in southern Poland at age 15 to attend school. Seven years later, with mechanic and crane-operating licenses, he moved to West Germany to work in construction for a decade. In 1989, he joined family in Rochester and worked several jobs before becoming a grocer.

click to enlarge A selection of beers at Dybowski's Authentic Polish Market. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • A selection of beers at Dybowski's Authentic Polish Market.
He was a crane operator in Florida for a while, and owned rental property and a car dealership in Rochester. It was not until December 2012 that Dybowski opened his namesake grocery store.

Dybowski’s Authentic Polish Market found a niche catering mostly to Polish, Ukrainian, and Cuban immigrants, but drew customers from as far as Buffalo and Utica with its assortment of products, which includes more than 30 hand-selected kinds of kielbasa alone.
His place offers ample creative options for anyone looking to explore Eastern European cuisine and try recipes like this:

Classic Haluski
Serves 4-6

Haluski is an Eastern European classic. Some versions of this fried cabbage dish center on dumplings, while others favor a bed of egg noodles. I’m partial to this version, which features Polish kielbasa and fresh green cabbage over a bed of egg noodles.
The variety of kielbasa at Dybowski’s provides a wealth of flavorful options for this dish, and the market’s staff can describe the nuances of each, helping you select the right one for your palate.

You will need:
2-3 lbs. Dybowski smoked kielbasa (cut into half-inch slices)
3/4 to 1 head of green cabbage (core removed, cut into thin strips)
1 large yellow onion (julienned)
2-3 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)
12-oz. bag of egg noodles (boiled until cooked, drained and lightly tossed in olive oil)
2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Dash of smoked paprika
Olive oil
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley (finely chopped for garnish)
Sour cream (optional garnish)

Heat a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat and melt the butter with a splash of olive oil, then lightly cook the onion, garlic, and sausage until they start to color (about 10 minutes).

Mix in the cabbage and stir frequently, cooking until it starts to wilt but still retains some of its bright green color and crunch (about 15 minutes). Season with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste and add more olive oil as needed.

Plate the cooked and drained egg noodles and top with the cooked cabbage-sausage mixture from the pan (including any butter and oil), and add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley and a dollop of sour cream. Serve immediately.

click to enlarge Harwinder Singh (right) leads the family-run grocery store Namaste Cash & Carry along with Harcharnjit Singh (middle) and Gurpal Singh (left). - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Harwinder Singh (right) leads the family-run grocery store Namaste Cash & Carry along with Harcharnjit Singh (middle) and Gurpal Singh (left).
Namaste Cash & Carry
3675 W. Henrietta Road; 424-2980; namastegrocery.com

Namaste Cash & Carry and the attached restaurant Namaste Grill are hidden gems in the hustle and bustle of Henrietta’s commercial strip. The family-run business, led by owner Harwinder Singh, opened on West Henrietta Road in July 2020.

The grocery store is by far the most comprehensive Indian and South Asian market in the area, offering a dizzying array of exotic vegetables, rice, lentils, dry goods, frozen foods, prepared foods, and — perhaps most impressively — spices and cookware. The attached eat-in or take-out Namaste Grill also boasts a wonderful selection of Indian street food staples as well as a remarkable variety of classics made fresh to order, such as samosas and chaat.
click to enlarge A massive variety of rice is among the dry goods available at Namaste Cash & Carry. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • A massive variety of rice is among the dry goods available at Namaste Cash & Carry.
“We wanted to try something different,” Singh says. “We want to serve things that other people don’t have.”

Singh’s family farmed rice, wheat, and vegetables in the Punjab region of India before settling in Rochester in the mid-1990s. They worked for years in local restaurants until jumping at the chance to buy Namaste Indian Grocery and Video at a different location in 2005.

click to enlarge Varieties of basmati rice at Namaste Cash & Carry. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Varieties of basmati rice at Namaste Cash & Carry.
The family’s business ventures grew in time, and the Singhs spent two years renovating and preparing their new location, which opened in July 2020 amid pandemic shutdowns. Their shop is more visible and attracts walk-in customers from many cultural backgrounds, but primarily sells goods popular in India, Pakistan, Bengal, Nepal, the Middle East, and North Africa.

If Namaste doesn’t have what you’re looking for, the Singhs will special order it. “When a customer requests a product, if it is available anywhere in America, we try to bring it in,” Singh says.

But you should have no trouble finding what you need for this dish:

Savory Chicken with Paneer
Serves 4-6

Indian food is a vast, nuanced, and exciting a cuisine with spicy, earthy, vibrant, and aromatic qualities. This recipe is a simple, fun starting point that can be made at home with no special equipment or techniques. The chicken can be substituted for cauliflower as a vegetarian preparation option.

I recommend exploring Namaste’s selection of fresh exotic hot chili peppers if you like a little heat. The staff at Namaste might even have some insightful vegetable or spice suggestions to modify this dish. Tell them CITY sent you.

You will need:
4-6 bone-in chicken thighs (skin removed)
10 oz. paneer cheese (cut into large cubes)
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
5 tablespoons of Indian yogurt
2 fresh green chili peppers (chopped, remove seeds for less spiciness)
2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro (roughly chopped)
1/2 cup of green peas (fresh or frozen)
2 cloves of fresh garlic (roughly chopped)
1 tablespoon of garam masala
1 teaspoon of powdered ginger
1 teaspoon of fenugreek powder
1 teaspoon of Indian red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of turbinado sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons of cooking oil
1 cup water
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Mix the tomato paste, yogurt, garlic, garam masala, ginger, fenugreek, red chili powder, turmeric, and sugar together in a bowl.

On a medium-high heat in a heavy pan or Dutch oven, heat the cooking oil and add in the tomato-yogurt mixture along with the cinnamon stick. Lower the heat and cook gently (3 to 5 minutes).

Add in the water, mix well, and bring to a low boil.

Add in the chicken and evenly coat each piece with the tomato-yogurt mixture, cover, and let simmer (10 to 15 minutes).

Turn each piece of the chicken over and add in the green chilies, peas, paneer, and half of the cilantro. Mix well, cover and cook. Let it simmer (5 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked through). Plate and garnish with the remaining cilantro. Best served with simple steamed white basmati rice.

J. Nevadomski is the author of the long-running "Highlife for Lowlifes" series and is a food and culture contributor to CITY.

Feedback on this article can be directed to Rebecca Rafferty, CITY's life editor, at becca@rochester-citynews.com.
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