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These Are The People In Your Neighborhood: Andrew Erace

January 17, 2014

Hog Island Press makes no secret of its affection for East Passyunk. It’s truly a neighborhood that loves you back – one that has not only embraced its ongoing cultural revitalization, but has encouraged and grown with its new population and businesses. There’s a refreshing level of respect between the new residents and the old guard here, and it’s no revelation that one of the greatest common grounds between almost everyone is an appreciation for good food. In the heart of it all stands Green Aisle Grocery, a small but mighty shop (Philadelphia Magazine’s Best Gourmet Market of 2012) that embodies a lot of what we love about Passyunk Avenue: a progressive business with roots in old South Philly – and a mind towards the future. Founded by brothers Andrew and Adam Erace (both also locally-sourced) in 2009, the attention to detail – and regional and sustainable foods – is inspiring. Andrew recently took a few moments to hang with Hog Island Press:

The Are The People In Your Neighborhood: Andrew Erace

Who are you?
My name is Andrew Erace, a native South Philadelphian who is passionate about food, real estate, traveling, and my city. My bro and I started Green Aisle Grocery, a local food boutique on East Passyunk Avenue, a little over four years ago.

What’s your favorite Philly sandwich?
Nothing like a John’s Roast Pork with sautéed spinach and sharp prov.

Can you share your best Philly hidden culinary gem?
Growing up in South Philly, my parents used to take my brother and me to Mancuso Cheese Shop for mozzarella balls since it was around the corner from my grandmom’s house. But in the summertime, Mancuso makes South Philly lemon water ice with the rind in it. Just can’t find it made the way Mancuso does. Additionally, iced tea water ice from Italiano’s down on 10th and Shunk, which sadly did not open in 2013 (fingers crossed for 2014), is stupidly good. It’s like you’re eating a frozen Arctic Splash – sweet, yet refreshing.

Of all the unique indigenous food products in this town, which are you fondest of?
There are very few things that make me happy to eat as much as a real pretzel. For those who have been in South Philly for a while, the now-defucnt Federal Street was the best around, but now Center City Pretzel on Washington Avenue is the only game in town. These guys are crisp on the outside and doughy on the inside. If you get them warm out of the oven, even better. Coupled with water ice from above, they are the quintessential Philly snack.

Who’s your favorite chef in the city?
Man, that’s a hard one because so many chefs are putting out incredible food these days. I would have to lean toward Mike Solomonov, mainly for the fact that he brought something unique and different to Philly. I could eat that fried haloumi as my app, entree, and dessert among other things at Zahav.

How has owning a gourmet food shop on Passyunk Ave changed your perspective on the region?
Since establishing Green Aisle, my eyes have been opened that much more to all the local artisans, farmers, and purveyors in the Philly area. Philly has always had somewhat of a local food scene, but the diversity of products available today is greater than it has ever been. The passion to which these operators produce, harvest, and cook is truly remarkable.

Describe your perfect day in Philadelphia.
Let’s take a random spring Saturday. Start with brunch. Anywhere. If I could eat brunch out every day of the week, I would. Recently enjoyed Honey’s and Jerry’s Bar, but can’t go wrong with the usual suspects of Morning Glory, Sabrina’s, Green Eggs, Hawthornes, et al. Followed by a walk around Center City to burn some of the meal off. CC has become so diverse, so I am always intrigued just seeing all the different types of new Philadelphians. Maybe do some shopping at the Rittenhouse Farmers Market (where we happen to have a stand) and the stores in the area. By that point I would be hungry again, so Monk’s for mussels and beer is a usual stop for me when I am on the west side. If the weather is nice, hit a 4:00 PM game at the Bank. Although the Phillies are not the most entertaining to watch these days, there are very few outdoor events as enjoyable as a baseball game. Since I am back down in the hood, grab a late bite at SPTR, Industry, or if I feel like something more formal and can get a table, Le Virtu, Laurel, or Fond on EPX. Drinks elsewhere or dancing up at Silk. May work up an appetite, so a Melrose #25 (cream chipped beef) might be in my future. Bed.

You can take 3 Philly-related albums on a roadtrip. What are they?
I’m a big R&B fan and growing up in Philly in the 90s, it was difficult not to like Boyz II Men. Brings me back to grade school days, especially their II album, so for nostalgia purposes, this would be coming with. John Legend was a student at UPenn and really got his career started here, so I would def take take his freshman CD, Get Lifted. He seems like one cool dude whose coattails I would like to ride. And lastly would be some type of compilation of Philadelphia soul/dance. My parents were big disco junkies, which somewhat trickled down to me, so this music was pretty popular on rides to the shore as kids. An International Records mix with the O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, The Intruders, Phyllis Hyman, and the like would make for some good highway singing. Funny enough, all of these are represented in my car right now.

What’s the first thing you’d do if you were mayor of this town?
Since I am an Urban Studies grad, I always look at changing Philadelphia from a real estate development/city planning standpoint. If there were no budget constraints, I would push to bury I-95. Philly is too disconnected from the waterfront, which is one of the biggest assets of this town. The Delaware River was neglected like the ugly stepchild for so long, although recent efforts to bridge the two together have been encouraging. I also would bulldoze the Gallery. This boxy mass that lacks any type of curb appeal is one of the main reasons Market Street has been an unfortunate status quo for so long.

You travel a lot. What do you find to be the the first Philly meal you seek out when you return home?
When I am away from Italian food too long, I begin twitching. It’s in my blood, so my comfort food staple has been a veal parm and spinach from Marra’s Cucina on the Avenue. Also been grabbing a Gennaro’s tomato pie to-go probably too often.

Got a favorite HIP design?
I am biased because of my SP roots – East Passyunk tee all the way.

———————–

Thanks Andrew! From Green Meadow Farm’s bacon and cage-free eggs to Rival Bros. Coffee, from Trickling Springs Creamery Organic Milk to Border Springs Lamb Sausages – Green Aisle has you covered. Craving Zahav’s hummus or meals-to-go from Ekta? You can get it here. Little Baby’s Ice Cream? Yep, they’ve got that, too. Need a great new bitter for that fancy cocktail? Mix it up. And these items are just the tip of the iceberg (yes, they sell lettuce and lots of other kinds of fresh produce, too.) But hey, don’t take our word for it – do yourself a favor and check them out yourself sometime… you’ll be glad that you did. Until next time – enjoy your life, love your neighbors, wear Hog Island Press.

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