When you make your first visit to Derado’s Italian Gourmet Market in Cornelius, make sure you’re hungry. Owner John DeSieno Jr. makes first-timers sample pretty much everything in the store, handing you pieces of the fresh Italian bread (his grandfather’s recipe), pizza with tomato sauce (his grandmother’s recipe), sliced Italian deli meats and any other dish he sees you eyeing. “That’s what we’ve always done,” he says. “When my grandparents opened their first store in 1949, Nanny always said the food will speak for itself if you treat the customers like family.” DeSieno (say it “Dee Cee No”) says the family had five Italian stores in upstate New York before he closed them all to move to the Charlotte area last year. The migration started when his brother moved down, bringing his baby. His mother couldn’t stand being away from her grandchild, so she followed three years ago. But she kept telling DeSieno she couldn’t find Italian food. “She had me bringing foods down twice a month. Finally, I said, ‘Ma, I can’t keep doing this.’ That’s when we made the decision to bring the family foods down to North Carolina.” The shop is close to another popular Italian market, Ferrucci’s. DeSieno says they complement each other and he sends customers over there for cuts of meat. “He’s more the Italian butcher. We’re more the true, authentic Italian market.”
Derado’s Italian Gourmet Market, 8301 Magnolia Estates Drive, in Magnolia Plaza in Cornelius. Closed Monday. 704-237-3382. www.derados.com.Italian Mac ‘N’ CheeseFrom John DeSieno Jr. of Derado’s in Cornelius. DeSieno says his family’s Italian macaroni and cheese isn’t baked like Southern versions. If you have any questions about putting it together, give him a call.16 ounces elbow pasta, cooked, drained and rinsed1 cup heavy cream1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese15 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese (see note)Grated Peccorini Romano cheese to taste1/2 cup bacon bits or crumbled cooked bacon1/2 cup diced roasted red peppers Combine cream, mozzarella and cheddar in a medium saucepan. Stirring continuously to keep the cheese from burning, bring to a boil or until hot enough to melt cheese. Remove from heat. Stir in the bacon and red pepper. Pour over the cooked, drained pasta and mix throughly. Top with ricotta and fold in gently. (Make sure you don’t add it when the pasta’s too hot or the ricotta will lose its texture.) Sprinkle with Peccorini to taste and serve. Garnish with bay leaf. Note: DeSieno’s ricotta is seasoned with oregano, parsley, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper.