There are stores you visit when you need a little something—an apple, a quart of milk, or a bottle of soda—and others when you need to do regular shopping. But what about when you need to buy more? Warehouse clubs? Two carts at your local supermarket? What about a place that specializes in big quantities without memberships or requirements? In New Jersey, the answer is Corrado's Family Affair in Clifton.
I first visited Corrado's when someone recommended it as a place to buy Italian specialties and perhaps, at one time long ago, it was just fine for that. Today though, like most other New Jersey businesses that began as Italian groceries, Corrado's has morphed into something else: the place to buy volume. Cases of San Marzano tomatoes, eight ounce cans of anchovy fillets, whole cheeses, and bulk packages of meat and poultry.
Walk the aisles and check out gallon jars of olives, giardiniera, and hot cherry peppers. Pick up a quart of pretty good pesto sauce for $15, and note that every Roland and Cento product is represented, even canned tofu. Normal-sized cans of stuffed vine leaves were reasonable, but the two-kilo monsters for $6.19 were a bargain for those who...um...need two kilos of stuffed vine leaves. My favorites? Quarts of olive paste and pints of whole capers for about the same price as two little jars in a regular supermarket, thirteen-ounce cans of anchovies packed in olive oil for $8, and pints of imported caponata.
In the cooler bins, you'll find wheels of brie, half prosciuttos, and dozens of other items in quantities only seen elsewhere behind deli counters. There's also a meat department with the same volume thing going for it: three pounds of pork chops, ten pounds of boneless chicken breast, and even a bulk pack of turkey gizzards.
While you're shopping in Corrado's, keep an eye out for Italian supermarket items. While they don't have a broad selection (and only a few stores in the region do), you can occasionally spot things worth picking up: ground orzo, "Flott" tuna in olive oil, and several brands of great cookies.
If this somehow isn't enough, head across the street to the Corrado's "Wholesale Food Warehouse," a restaurant supply store open to the public. I visited on a humid 91°F day and the walk-in cooler had to be one of the nicest spots in New Jersey. The $7.99 per-pound fillet mignon and $1.99 per-pound ground beef was even nicer, and where else can you park your car, walk into a store, and buy a whole wheel of Pecorino?
The "warehouse" has all the usual restaurant basics with a smattering of products clearly meant for homesick Italians; American eaters won't touch this stuff with a ten-foot pole. I spotted boxes of pre-wrapped chocolate Cornetti that you often see in Italian bars at breakfast time, brought some home, and watched my wife laugh, cry, and eat the cream puff-like pastries at the same time.
In addition to the two food stores, the Corrado's complex also includes a shop with wine-making and beer-brewing gear, including tiny valves and giant tanks. That's worth a visit in itself.
By the way, if you find yourself hungry while you're shopping, there's a "Papaya King" outlet next to the warehouse. To make this whole experience even better, they happened to be giving away free hot dogs on my visit.