Back in the late seventies when I was a child, I remember the Italian mobile deli turning into our street. It was a huge blue lorry with a noisy engine and would park right in the middle of the road. My mum would dash out with her purse, along with a few other Italian neighbours, ready to shop. It felt amazing to step inside, like being in Dr. Who’s Tardis, disconnected from the outside world. Many of the foods were the same as all of these authentic foods that I’m surrounded by today in Buongiorno Italia.

Trading since 1978 as Franco Stores, Tony, the son of Francesco and Immacolata is in charge now, taking over in 1991; he’s doing a fine job and has won a number of local food and drink awards. This is just what we need in St Albans, an Italian Deli that provides fresh produce and good value and there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the city!

My husband realizes that in about two minutes time Tony and I will be talking very loudly to each other and gesticulating – this is simply the way Italians communicate and can’t be helped. Outside, vibrant fresh fruits and vegetables are neatly displayed in a kaleidoscope of colour. Fuller and shinier than anything you’d find in the supermarket, from Sicilian aubergines to bright oranges.

Inside, it is choc full of fine Italian foods and Tony prides himself on the uncompromising quality and freshness of his produce. Behind the counter is a wide range of cured meats such as Mortadella and Milano Salami and a host of Italian cheeses from provolone to Gran Padano; there are also stranger foods like wild boar pasta sauce!

Behind us is an entire wall of authentic wine and spirits such as Amaretto, Marsala and Grappa; further down are my favourite chocolates, Baci from Umbria and Gianduja from Piedmont.

The coffee machine steams loudly and Tony talks over it while serving customers. To the right is a small bar where we sip our cappuccinos. Needless to say the illy coffee is exquisite. We stop for lunch and our paninis arrive, mine is filled with Mortadella, Pecorino cheese and roasted red peppers.

After that, we shop. Tony slices coppa followed by some pancetta. Our basket is getting full now with ricotta, cantucci biscuits and porcini mushrooms for my risotto. Finally, we take our baskets to the till.

We walk out with two full carrier bags and a huge Panettone certain that we’ll be back soon.

“Ciao Antonio! E Buon Anno!”

“Ciao, al prossimo!”