Calgary·Food and the City

Italian Centre Shop's Gino Marghella on his deli passion

Calgary Eyeopener food guide Julie Van Rosendaal meets Gino Marghella at the city's first Italian Centre Shop.

'I've been here since I was a kid, and I still love this deli.'

Italian Centre Shop's Cathedral of Cheese houses 80 massive wheels. ( Julie Van Rosendaal)
  As a teenager, Gino Marghella spent his summers working in the Italian Centre Shop, a landmark of the Edmonton Italian food and cultural scene since Frank Spinelli opened the original tiny location on the corner of 95th Street and 108th Avenue in 1959

  • Food and the City is a weekly column from Calgary Eyeopener food guide Julie Van Rosendaal. Join in the conversation about good food in the city with the hashtag #eatyyc.

(Frank, along with Calgarians Tony Falcone and Alberto Romano, were well known across Alberta for lobbying to legalize homemade wine. On 1964, they convinced the provincial government to remove prohibution-era restrictions on home brewing.)

Gino landed a job at the market when he had just turned 17. 

Gino landed a job at Italian Centre Shop when he had just turned 17. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

"It was June 24, 1999," he recalls. "It was one of the busiest days in the deli. I fell in love with the deli, and I've been here ever since."

He worked his way up from deli counter to cashier to deli manager and store manager, and now he's moved to Calgary to open their newest location.

Calgarians have always known about the Italian Centre Shop in Edmonton. With three locations, the south side shop is just off Calgary Trail — a must stop on the way out of the city if you're heading back to Calgary.

It was a natural progression to expand here, and so they opened up on the corner of Fairmont and Southland Drive S.E., in a spot that was once a Sobey's, earlier this week.

"I've always had this vision to bring the Italian Centre Shop here, and I wanted to be the guy who do it. It's true to my heart," Gino says.

This summer, he moved to Calgary along with his wife — whose grandmother was Frank Spinelli's sister — and two young daughters.

Having worked in all areas of the store for so many years, Gino can answer any question about any product they carry and make recommendations about the 100 or so varieties of olive oil and almost as many types of canned tomatoes, some custom packed for them in Italy.

There are shelves of balsamic vinegar, imported mayos and Nutella — even the real Italian kind. They sell fresh elk, bison and lean Alberta-raised Piedmontese beef; an Italian breed introduced to Canada in the 70s.

The café, Spinelli's Bar Italia, serves up coffee, Neopolitan pizzas and gelato. Alongside, the glass displays in the bakery are loaded with tiramisu piled high with chocolate curls, handmade cannoli, warm pagnotta, ciabatta and red fife loaves, and deep Italian cheesecakes topped with fresh figs.

Along the back wall, the impressive 13' high, 40' wide Cathedral of Cheese houses 80 massive wheels, mostly Parmigiano Reggiano, Romano and Piave Vecchio.

But Gino's heart is still in the deli — it's Western Canada's largest, with over 600 types of meat, antipasti and cheeses, including Sardinian Truffle Pecorino and local Grizzly Gouda from Sylvan Star.

"I've been here since I was a kid, and I still love this deli," Gino says, hand to his heart. "It's the heartbeat. On Saturdays, it goes ba-bump, ba-bump — you can feel the pulse of it. When people stand in front of it, and you're interacting with them and they're interacting with other customers, it's the centre of the whole store. This is our heartbeat. This is our pulse."


Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.