When Vincenzo Zaurrini and his brother Angelo bought G&G Fruit Store in the mid 1950s, the store was 15 feet large– basically one aisle. My uncle informed my dad that the owner of G & G wanted to retire. My dad suggested, ‘”Why don’t we ask if he would like to sell?’” recounts Celia, who is now responsible of operations at Milano with her brother Mario.
Vincenzo Zaurrini’s vision was to use that space to bring a part of Italy’s flavour to Montreal. He thought to himself, ‘”There are no Italian groceries in Montreal. We’d be the first one,’” says Mario. The store was renamed Milano because it was easy to pronounce and was easily understood in any language.
Vincenzo’s new business venture actually brought him back to his roots – a little boy growing up in the town of Celano, (in Aquila, Abruzzo), during the Great Depression in the 1920s in a family that farmed and sold crops. Vincenzo was nine years old when his family had enough money in 1933 to immigrate to Canada together.
While Celia and Mario worked behind the counter, their father and uncle were keeping up with demand and constantly importing new products from Italy. “We were the first grocery store in Montreal to offer rapini and Italian parsley,” recalls Mario. Vincenzo then began importing cheese, cold cuts and pasta.
Vincenzo Zaurrini would never pass up an opportunity to buy more real estate on St-Laurent Boulevard. Years went by, and every so often, Zaurrini would expand his business offering more and more products to his clientele. He eventually owned the building that houses Fruiterie Milano. Today, the famous grocery store of la Piccola Italia is more than 12 times the square footage it was in 1954.
What started off as a fruit and vegetable store with only one aisle and four employees is now a full-fledged, one-stop shop with more than 90 employees who handle the countless products that come straight from Italy. One thing that hasn’t changed is the way people shop at Milano. “People always tell us they enjoy being here. I watch people shop – they are not in a rush. They look carefully at the products, they read all the labels,” says Celia. “It’s a family business – it’s a get-together place where people enjoy meeting and discovering new products,” agrees Mario.
We invite you to a memorable shopping experience among our fresh fruit and vegetable departments, imported oils and vinegars, top quality meats, warm breads, Italian pasta fresca made on site, succulent Mediterranean charcuterie, Italian coffees with dark roasting and much more!