Albert was there, as he often was, and told me that Progresso had discontinued the product, but he had brought some things back from New York (“I grew up on Progresso!” I had wailed). Seeing that I had put one of Vera’s jars of caponata on the counter, he said it was no charge, “From me to you.”
I replied that I always felt a little homesick for New York when I came in the store, and also a bit like a little kid, because Albert would always wind up giving me something for free, just like the old-timers I knew in the Italian delis back home…with Albert, it was always a cookie, or a loaf of bread, or some other little thing…an expression of his generosity and warmth…when I had my son and we would visit the store together, I could always count on Albert to give him a delicious treat also – just like other kind store owners did in the old days of my own childhood.
One holiday Albert bailed me out with some good fix-it advice when I inadvertently put some wine that had turned bad into the tomato sauce I’d been cooking all day for dinner. He sent me on my way with a couple of jars of his own tomato sauce (no charge), “just in case…”
Culver City just won’t be the same without Albert Vera, but I know his neighborliness warmed a lot of hearts here, including mine. His goodness will outlive him in the many sweet memories he created just by being him.
Joanne Tortorici Luna