What is Vincenzo’s?
For all lovers of Italian food, fine cheeses, fresh pasta, freshly baked bread, and other tantalizing commodities, I recommend that you visit this Italian grocer in uptown Waterloo. It’s got a mix between an European small-shop atmosphere and a street vendor’s allure.
Entering Vincenzo’s for the first time felt to me like returning to Israel for a shopping trip. The place is packed with goodies and has displays of fresh pastas, sweets, salads, etc. around every corner. At the same time, it also sells hot food in-store. It’s really the perfect morning or afternoon getaway. You can casually browse its many isles and discover Italian brands and Vincenzo’s store brand goodies.
A Little Walkthrough
Cheeses & Dips:
First, let’s talk dairy.
As nice as fine cheeses are, they can get expensive expensive. When I discovered Vincenzo’s, however, it changed the way I go about shopping. It’s cheaper than other grocery stores I’ve been to and has much more variety.
Vincenzo’s has their fresh dips and fine cheeses. Their dips are homemade and much more fresh than you’ll get at any other grocery store nearby; I think this is a worthwhile investment.
Next, their cheese collection has two serve-yourself fridges, as well as a walk-up service counter. They have so many types of cheese that it’s really quite hard to choose what you want. To top it off, they have several types of some of the cheeses.
My favourite dips to get at Vincenzo’s are their fresh cream cheeses and their chipotle aioli. Fresh cream cheese is easier to spread than brand-name cream cheese sold at grocery stores, and it tastes better to boot! I highly recommend trying it, even if it’s just the one time. My previous roommate didn’t even like cream cheese, but she once tried some from Vincenzo’s and fell in love. You can honestly taste the difference. As for the chipotle aioli, I occasionally add it to my sandwiches for a bit of spicy goodness. It can also be used as chip dip or as pizza dipping sauce. This aioli isn’t necessarily for everyone, as it’s not overly spicy and has a sweet tang to it, but I personally love it.
Favourite Soft Cheeses:
These goat cheeses aren’t Vincenzo’s in-store brand, but I really like the garlic & herb and garlic goat cheese. They also have dill goat cheese, and that’s generally my next go-to (unfortunately sold out on my last trip).They have plenty of variety, so you could try something new every time.
Vincenzo’s also carries a fantastic Queso Fresco. It’s very fresh and tastes fantastic. Also, it saves you the time of making your own from scratch if you enjoy doing that. I’ve made some on occasion, but it was never quite as good as the Vincenzo’s Queso Fresco, so there’s really no point when there are specialists willing to sell it for a decent price.
Favourite Aged / Fine Cheeses:
As a cheddar person, Vincenzo’s doesn’t disappoint with their variety. My favourite full-bodied cheddars are their Charwood, Double Smoked, and Maple Smoked Cheddars. My go-to is the Maple Smoked Cheddar, but they were sold out on my last trip. The Double Smoked is a good replacement for its smokey sibling, but not quite the same. The Charwood cheddar is something I’ve never seen outside of Vincenzo’s. Its hearty applewood flavour is quite addicting, and the paprika only adds to its charm. I highly recommend it to all cheese lovers. The Pine River Caramelized Onion Cheddar is a more subtle-flavoured cheese, but still quite nice. It makes a great grilled cheese, and Vincenzo’s always keeps a steady supply.
Another really nice cheese they keep on stock is their Rosemary and Olive Oil Asiago. Although I didn’t get it this time around, the cheese is a staple for all cheese and cracker lovers. It’s mild, but the rosemary and olive oil give it a nice twist.
Vincenzo’s carries many different meats, but since I’m vegetarian, I can hardly comment on them. There is a picture of some of their meats in the Dairy section above.
Vincenzo provides both fresh and dried pastas. As dried pastas can be bought anywhere and for cheaper, I’ll focus on their homemade pastas, which are far cheaper than boxed fresh pastas you might find at other grocery stores. To highlight this, I bring you the cheapest but best fresh pastas to buy on a budget.
The Spinach, Sundried Tomato and Basil, and Garlic pasta bundles are $0.99 per 100g and delicious. They don’t cost much and are a nice luxury every now and then.
There is also ravioli and tortellini in the store, as well as fresh gnocchi.
Vincenzo’s breads are nice and fluffy within and nice and crusty on the outside. The exception to this is their Ciabattas, which are generally fantastic. The herbed ciabattas were gone, but “Hamburger Ciabattas” were still in stock. The Ciabattas are a must at any Italian bakery, and Vincenzo’s is no exception. They also have other international breads, such as the baguettes hiding in the corner of the store. Even their pizza crusts (on the bottom shelves in the picture) are worth getting every once in a while. Freshly baked buns sell out quickly, so come early if you like those.
International Goods, such as Salads, Sushi, Pastries, and Olives:
Vincenzo’s also has other products you may not have thought of. They sell sushi, which is surprisingly good for an Italian place, but there isn’t much variety. What they lack in variety in the sushi isle, however, they make up for in the olive department. Vincenzo’s has an entire self-serve counter for olives. With this much choice, olive connoisseurs are sure to be pleased. Vincenzo’s also offers a salad bar. Pasta, couscous salad, and food such as savoury baked goods are offered at this counter. You’ll wonder if you’re at an Italian grocer or an international food store.
P.S. The samosas are pretty good too.
Vincenzo’s has a variety of hot food stalls throughout the store. The one I most recommend is their hot sandwich bar. You can get any sandwich under the sun with their in-store brand cheeses, meats, breads, and veggies. The lineup for sandwiches can get pretty long; fortunately, you can order a sandwich on Vincenzo’s website and pick it up without waiting in line to order. There are also other hot foods such as veggie lasagna, which is excellent.
Sweets and Hot Drinks:
You can finish your afternoon of shopping or eating with Vincenzo’s bakery’s sugary goods or their collection of teas and coffee mixes/beans. There are mini cakes and tarts available for purchase. My friends have bought some and have assured me that they are fantastic.
Something I have allowed myself to indulge in is the tea collection. There are many brands and types of tea available. For example, I am the proud owner of a tin of Strawberry Chocolate tea from Vincenzo’s. It’s a caffeine-free Rooibos which I highly recommend to all dessert tea lovers.
As a tea lover and abstainer from coffee, I can’t talk much about their coffee collection, but it is extensive as well.
Finally, one of the cash registers happens to be the Vincenzo’s Cafe register, where you can get treats – including gelato! There are seats available where you can sit and eat. Their gelatos are great, and my favourite is the basic chocolate.
As of writing, Vincenzo’s still has their Christmas items in, and is currently having a 50% off sale. I’ve bought some of their Christmas chocolates on the way out, and although ’tis no longer the season, the chocolates still tasted great.
This brings us to the end of our shopping trip. Perhaps we will have a dine out at Vincenzo’s soon so that you could see for yourself whether a short trip uptown is worth a little taste of Italy.