"They Call Me Produce Pete"
Pete's award-winning new memoir is now available!
Order through this website and get an autographed copy!
Pete's award-winning new memoir is now available!
Order through this website and get an autographed copy!
Glen Rock, NJ
Little Falls Public Library
Little Falls, NJ
The story of how Napolitano's Produce in Bergenfield NJ got it's start, has to do with watermelons. My father was always in the produce business but really didn't care much for it, you know it was never his choice , it was what the family did. Now from time to time he would do other jobs, a butcher, truck driver, bar owner, and a bus driver. well it just so happened that he was driving a bus for Red and Tan Line in northern New Jersey, when my Mom came to him and said, Pete, I was getting gas at a service station in Bergenfield and I noticed that next to him was an empty lot and I thought , that would make a perfect spot for me to sell some watermelons off one of your trucks. Mom was always thinking of how to bring extra money in the household, those days were pretty lean, and she was a woman ahead of her times. So being a good husband he bought her a load of watermelons, parked her on the corner by the gas station and went about driving the bus. To his surprise, but not her's, she sold the whole load that day. Now being such a good husband, he bought her two loads the next day, she sold all of them and he stopped driving the bus, and Napolitano's Produce was born. So when people always say to me, your father had a great business, I always thank them with a little smile, if it wasn't for mom , who knows what would have been, Produce Pete may never have existed, Thanks Mom!!!
Have a Great Summer !!!!!
NBC's ' Produce Pete' sits down to talk about food access issues, the New York Green Cart Initiative and his own beginnings as a street vendor. He appears in the film THE APPLE PUSHERS (www.applepushers.com).
Call me a romantic, but Valentine's Day has held a special place in my heart ever since I was a kid growing up in north Jersey. One day when I was 16 years old.
I went out with a bunch of friends and we met some girls from a nearby town. One girl really stood out to me — her name was Bette Lynn and she was 14 years old. As strange as this seems because at that age, who knows about marriage or even love? — I told one of my friends that I was going to marry that girl someday.Sure enough, that girl and I got married in 1967, and have been married for over 52 years and have two children and seven grandchildren together. I feel lucky and grateful every day to have found that one special person for me.
When Bette and I took over my family's store, Napolitano's Produce, in 1969, we sold roses on Valentines Day, but because we were a fruit and vegetable store, we also sold a lot of strawberries.
Stem strawberries were a particularly big seller, especially when Bette made chocolate-dipped ones, because nothing goes better together than chocolate and strawberries.This year, however, berries and strawberries in particular have been especially high-priced, largely due to weather conditions. Florida had very warm weather day and night this past October, November and December, causing the fruit to come on early.
In my 65 years in the produce business, I've never seen this much bad weather in all areas, causing an overall shortage of product. The good news is that help is on the way and prices should start falling, and quality improving, by mid-February. So I hope everyone will get out and enjoy their strawberries this season.
Did You Know?
Legend has it that clever children were behind the naming of strawberries. After picking the fruit, children strung them on glass straws and sold them "by the straw." Strawberries are now sold by the pint or pound.- Shaped like a heart and red in color, strawberries are considered a romantic fruit and are a natural symbol of love. But we weren't the first to see their romantic nature — in Germanic mythology, the strawberry was sacred to Frigg, the northern goddess of love.- Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans crushed strawberries into a mortar, mixed them with meal, and made a strawberry bread. After trying this bread, the colonists developed their own version and the famous summer dessert known as Strawberry Shortcake was born. Every region has its own unique way of serving strawberries. In Venice, strawberries are served with a wedge of lemon and sugar. Berry flavor in France is sharpened with a splash of red wine vinegar.In Greece, strawberries are half-dipped in cheese fondant and served on polished leaves.In America, we like our strawberries "as is" or served with whipped cream.
California produces an overwhelming majority of the nation's strawberries, providing an almost year-round supply.The California strawberry season begins in January in southern California and continues through November in the northern part of the state, with peak season occurring from April to June. Mexico is another major source of strawberries, as is Florida, where the season begins in December and runs through March.Strawberries flourish under growing conditions of warm, sunny days and cool, foggy nights. All strawberries are picked, sorted, and packed by hand in the field; the trays of strawberries are then rushed to shipping facilities where they're cooled down to about 34°F.Within 24 hours of harvest, the strawberries are loaded onto refrigerated trucks for delivery to a store near you.Stem strawberries are picked differently, however. With this variety, the runners coming off the strawberry plant are cut, leaving a long stem on the strawberry, which requires more time in the picking process. The largest and most premium berries are typically the ones picked for stem varieties.
When you're selecting strawberries, look for bright, deep red, glossy berries with fresh green caps, leaves, and stems. They should also be dry. Look at the bottom of the box: there should be no red stains or seepage showing. And, of course, stay away from berries that have turned dull and bluish. They're goners.
Rule 1: Refrigerate
Rule 2: Refrigerate
Rule 3: Refrigerate
Strawberries, like most other berries, won't ripen any further once they're pulled from the vine. Nothing you can do at home will make a green berry ripen. And once the berry cap is pulled, it will deteriorate very quickly. You can hold ripe strawberries in the refrigerator a day or two and still have pretty good berries, but the best thing to do is to eat strawberries the same day you buy them.
Just as important: store the strawberries untouched. Never, ever wash or remove the strawberry cap until you're ready to eat the berry. Then just wash the berries with a gentle spray of cool water and remove the caps after the berries have drained. The no-touch rule also holds if you're planning to freeze the berries. Just pop them into a plastic bag and put them into the freezer unwashed and uncapped. Rinse briefly and remove the caps only when you're ready to serve.
STRAWBERRY FUN FACTS
Over 53 percent of seven to nine year olds picked strawberries as their favorite fruit.
Go to Bette's Recipes for her Chocolate -Covered Strawberries
When i think of Broccoli Rabe, my father always comes to mine, you see in Italy where he was born they ate Broccoli Rabe which grew wild with every meal. Meat was exotic and hard to come by so vegetables that grew wild were the meal of the day. For someone that ate some much Rabe, he still loved it, but one thing bother him, the PRICE. Broccoli Rabe in America became a sort of a pricey vegetable that showed up in trendy restaurants , and when pop would go out to eat and see the price he would always bring up when he was young they ate broccoli rabe sandwiches, broccoli rabe and eggs, broccoli rabe and just about everything just to fill them up. Times might have changed, but in the Napolitano family Broccoli Rabe is still our favorite vegetable.
Broccoli rabe is a non heading variety of broccoli that's also known as broccoletti di rape, brocoletto, rapini, choy sum, or Chinese flowering cabbage. It has long, thin, leafy stalks topped with small florets that look like tiny broccoli florets. The florets or flowers are quite delicate; the leaves slightly bitter.
Once highly prized by the Romans and cultivated all over the southern Mediterranean, broccoli rabe didn't appear in more northern areas of Europe until the sixteenth century, and didn't appear in North America until the 1920's, when Italian farmers brought it to the United States. For years broccoli rabe was favored mainly in the Italian and Asian communities here. In the old days broccoli rabe was a staple and sold for twenty-five cents a pound, maybe ten cents a pound. In my father's family broccoli rabe was used to flavor all kinds of filling dishes when meat was just too expensive. They'd have it with pasta, with potatoes--they'd even make broccoli rabe sandwiches! They had it so much that my father once swore he'd never eat it again. Now it's a yuppie food that shows up in trendy restaurants and fetches $2.99 a pound at the market.
Even though it's a little pricey now, broccoli rabe is still a great vegetable. It packs a wallop and has a bitter zest that gives a real lift to bland foods.
Broccoli rabe is most plentiful between late fall and early spring. It is grown in various places all over the continent, including Quebec, California, Arizona, and other states, so it's usually available year round, except for a couple of months in midsummer--usually June and July.
At the market you'll usually find broccoli rabe displayed in a refrigerator case sprinkled with ice because it wilts very easily. Choose firm, green, small stems with compact heads. Like broccoli, the flower buds that make up the florets should be tightly closed and dark green, no yellow buds. The AndyBoy label is the top of the line when it comes to broccoli rabe and should be bought whenever
Store broccoli rabe in your refrigerator crisper unwashed, either wrapped in a wet towel or in a plastic bag. It will keep two or three days. For longer storage, blanch and freeze.
To prepare, rinse thoroughly in cold water, shake off, and cut off the bottoms of the stalks (they're too tough to eat). Broccoli rabe is much better cooked than raw. Raw, it's very bitter but has no other flavor. Even a light steaming brings out its distinctive taste. As a side vegetable, broccoli rabe yields only about one serving per pound because it cooks way down. You can cook it like broccoli, but whether you braise, saute, boil, or steam it, you only need to cook it for eight to ten minutes. Most Italians like broccoli rabe al dente--cooked about six minutes. You can steam it in water or chicken broth, or saute it with oil and garlic. Some people like it as a cold salad, steamed then cooled and dressed with oil, hot peppers, garlic, and other seasonings. For terrific potatoes, add steamed broccoli rabe to boiled potatoes and dress with olive oil and garlic. Broccoli rabe also makes a great sauce for pasta when steamed and combined with olive oil, garlic, and hot sausage.
Don't forget to check out our Broccoli Rabe Christmas Pie at the top of the page under Bette's Recipes, it's GREAT!!!
Click link for Broccoli Rabe Show
A fruit--oh yes, it's a fruit--but in the United States we treat the tomato like a vegetable. Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes at Monticello back in 1781, but they didn't really start to become popular here until after the Civil War. Now the tomato is the third most popular vegetable in the United States--after potatoes and lettuce.Once called the Peruvian apple, the tomato is a member of the nightshade family. It originated in South America, and our name for it comes from the ancient Nahuatl name tomatl. The French called it the love apple, and the Italians named it the golden apple because the first tomatoes were small yellow fruits. After the early Spanish explorers sent seeds to Naples, the Italians went crazy for tomatoes, and the rest--all the way down to pasta and pizza sauce--is history.A really good tomato is sweet, tender, juicy, and except for the yellow varieties, a deep rich red color. When you get one of those hard tomatoes that tastes like cardboard, you've got one of the hybrids that started coming onto the market in the 1950's, when the businessmen and scientists got together and produced a tomato that could be shipped from one coasts to the other without bruising. Unfortunately, at the same time they also bred out all the flavor.A great tomato is worth looking for. And the way you handle it at home is almost as important as what you choose in the first place. The three most important rules to remember about tomatoes are:
Refrigerating kills the flavor, the nutrients, the texture. It just kills the tomato--period.Unless you live in a really cold climate, the best tomatoes you can buy will be at your local farm stand, when tomatoes are in season in your area. That's true for most produce, but it's doubly true for tomatoes. About half the tomatoes shipped and sold in the United States come from Florida. They are the ones you find in the store in the winter. They're hard, they're thick, they never turn red, and they have no taste. A few winter tomatoes come out of Mexico and California, as well as from Holland, Belgium, and Israel. There are also more and more hydroponic tomatoes on the market.
I may be biased, but I think that in season the Jersey tomato is the best around--maybe because of the soil. The truth is, any local tomato, picked ripe, is going to be good. In the summertime, in season, buy local tomatoes.In the winter I think Canada beats out the rest, with hydroponics a close second. Canada tomatoes are grown in greenhouses, picked ripe, and then shipped by truck. For that reason they're a little more expensive. If you have to have a good tomato in the dead of winter, choose one from Canada, Hydroponics grown in the U.S. are also excellent.Mexican tomatoes are a little better than most of the other winter varieties here because they're usually picked by hand and are a little riper when they come off the vine. Most tomatoes in the U.S. are shipped green because ripe tomatoes are just too fragile for machine picking.California tomatoes, which usually arrive in the late spring, have a thick wall and are very solid inside. A lot of people like them because they're easy to slice, but I don't think they're any better than Florida tomatoes. They look better and ripen more easily, but they're very dry.Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with a Florida tomato in Florida. Or a California tomato in California. The problem isn't the source--it's that the tomatoes are picked green, gassed with ethylene to make them turn more or less red, then refrigerated and shipped. Even if the tomatoes are picked ripe, they're refrigerated before they're shipped, and that's the final insult.
STEM GRAPE , TOMATOES ON THE VINE, CHERRY TOMATOES
The grape and cherry tomatoes with the stems still attached are your best bet. With the stems still attached, this will let the cherry or grape tomato still receive the nutrients from the stem and make the tomato sweeter. They are always about 50 per cent sweeter than your regular tomato. This also makes it possible to pick the tomatoes when they are deep red in color and fully matured. When picked fully matured, the taste is always much better. Like all tomatoes you never want to refrigerate these because they will lose their flavor and texture. In the winter and early spring, it is very hard to find a good tasting tomato. This is probably the best tasting of all the tomatoes this time of year. These stem tomatoes are tomatoes you can pick by just smelling them. They have a fresh, sweet smell that tomatoes from years ago had. Stem tomatoes, like all tomatoes, are a fruit. You should not wash or remove the stem until you are ready to use. Also, never ripen on the window sill or sun. Just leave out on the counter and never, never, never, refrigerate!When selecting, look for a good red color. Avoid those that look orange in color. Check to see if the stems are still attached, if the stem are missing or tomatoes are off the stems, chances are those tomatoes have been sitting around too long.A great tomato is worth looking for, and the way you handle them at home is almost as important as the way you choose them. The sweetness from the grape, cherry stem tomato is due to the high sugar to acid ratio.
Like other tomatoes, local cherry tomatoes, picked ripe, are going to be the best. Look for small ones. One local variety, called Tiny Tim, is not much bigger than your fingernail, and it's as sweet as sugar.In the winter cherry tomatoes from Israel again are your best bet. Picked ripe, they're very small and very sweet. The Canadians have also produced a "baby tomato" that's a little smaller than a golf ball. It has excellent flavor too. Your next best bet is Mexican cherry tomatoes, which again are picked a little later and a little riper. I don't recommend cherry tomatoes from California. They tend to be too watery and mushy.When choosing cherry tomatoes, look for a good red color--avoid those that look orange. Also check to see if the stems are still on. If the stems are missing, chances are those tomatoes have been sitting around too long.
Campari is a variety of tomato noted for its juiciness, high sugar level, low acidity, and lack of mealiness. Camparis are deep red and larger than a cherry tomato but smaller and rounder than a plum tomatoThey are originally from Europe; the European seed variety has been used to introduce them to North America beginning in 1996. OTHER VARIETIESTomatoes come in scores of different varieties, colors, and markings--striped, purple, even white--but these are found almost exclusively in season, from local sources like farm markets or markets that carry specialty produce. Again, if you want to see a wider variety where you shop, ask for what you want and help create a customer demand.
Local Tomatoes: Depending on the local climate, from July through September, with the peak in late July and AugustFlorida Tomatoes: October to July, with the peak from December through MayCalifornia Tomatoes: May to December, with the peak from June through OctoberImports: Usually year round, with the peak usually from January through April
RIPENING AND STORING
Tomatoes are considered "vine ripe" by the industry if they have developed a little color "break"--that is, a small yellow or reddish patch of color on the skin or a starburst of yellow at the blossom end. If the tomato has a color break or the starburst, you'll be able to ripen it at home.Don't ripen tomatoes on the windowsill. Never put them in the sun to ripen. Just put them out on the counter, stem end up, in a relatively cool place--not right next to the stove or the dishwasher. Put on a little Frank Sinatra music if you want them to ripen fast. If you want them to ripen faster--well, you can always put on the Stones. Never, ever refrigerate--not even after the tomato is ripe. If you've got too many ripe tomatoes, make a salad or a raw tomato sauce for pasta. Or make a cooked sauce, freeze it, and you'll have something nice for the winter.
We have all kinds of upscale restaurants, and there is a lot of interest in complicated cuisines, but sometimes it's the really simple things that give you the most pleasure. When I was a kid, I had to help my father sell produce out of the back of his truck. At lunchtime he'd stop at some little store and buy a loaf of Italian bread. Then we'd find a place where we could pull off to the side of the road. He'd put down a piece of cardboard for a cutting board, slice the bread, cut up a tomato and an onion, and make tomato sandwiches.Sometimes when I come home from the store and I'm too bushed to prepare or even eat a full meal, I'll make myself a tomato sandwich. Food brings back memories. You can sit down with the most ordinary things on your mind and eat something good and it will bring back memories - things you haven't thought about in years. Even memories that might not start out being so good seem to improve as time goes by. At the time I hated peddling fruits and vegetables out of that truck with Pop, but now I wish I had the time to pull off to the side of the road they way we did then. We don't have the luxury of slowing down - everything is geared to working and being productive. Produce, produce, produce. Wouldn't I love to be able to take my son and go sit by the side of the road and have a tomato sandwich? With the perfect ripe red tomato and good bread, there's nothing' better. Click link below for Spring Tomatoes that taste good
I love apple season. There are few things better than a good apple eaten out of hand. Whether the flesh is mild and sweet or tart and winey, when you bite into it, a fresh-picked apple will make a crisp cracking sound and you’ll get a spurt of juice. There’s a season for everything and the main season for American apples starts the last half of October. I’ve probably said this a thousand times, but our problem in the United States is that we try to buy produce out of season. Many varieties will keep well late into winter, but by summer most apples have been stored for seven or eight months. No wonder they are soft, mealy, and without juice. When peaches and melons come in, stay away from apples. Come back when there’s a snap in the air, and you’ll remember what makes apples so good. Apples are one of the most esteemed fruits in the northern Hemisphere in part because they’re so versatile. They’re delicious raw, baked, dried, or made into apple sauce. They make great pies, apple butter, apple jelly, chutney, cider, and cider vinegar, and they’re a welcome addition to dozens of other dishes. A member of the rose family, apples have been known since ancient times and were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Many places grow wonderful apples now, but overall, the United States produces the finest apple crops in the world. The Northwest, the East Coast, and parts of the Midwest, regions where the seasons change, grow the best apples. They’re not a fruit for hot climates. Only a few of the thousands of varieties of apples grown today are mass marketed, but there are many more out there than Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Macs. There are very old and very new varieties you may never have heard of. If you’re north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you’re going to find the best apples at local farm markets and stands, where they’re fresh-picked, and you’re likely to find great varieties you’d never see at the supermarket.
The vast majority of apples are picked from September through November and either sold immediately or put into cold storage, where some keep well – some don’t. The peak of the season for domestic varieties – when most stored apples still retain their snap – is generally over by December. A few will last through the early spring, but by March it’s hard even to find a good Winesap.
In most cases look for very firm, bright-colored fruit with no bruises and with the stem still on – a good indication that you’ve got an apple that’s not overripe. The apple should feel heavy in the hand for its size and have a good shine on it. A dull look usually means the fruit has been in storage too long, although some excellent varieties like Winesaps and eastern Golden Delicious have relatively rough skin with little or no sheen. As always, use your nose. An apple that smells great is going to taste great.
HERE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE VARIETIES
Sometimes the name of an apple says it all. Honeycrisp apples are honey sweet (with a touch of tart) and amazingly crisp, some say “explosively crisp.” It’s easy to see why this new variety continues to grow in popularity since its 1991 introduction in Minnesota. Supplies are limited for now but more Honeycrisp trees are being planted every year.
With the popular Red Delicious and McIntosh for parents, Empire apples were destined to be a hit. It’s a sweet-tart combination that’s great for everything. The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva Introduced this new variety in 1966.
Nothing evokes Fall better than the aromatic fragrance of McIntosh apples. People have enjoyed this apple since 1811 when John McIntosh discovered the first seedling. McIntosh apples grow particularly well in New York’s cool climate!
Want a perfect no-fat dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth? Macoun may just be your apple, but, hurry, these special apples are only available in the Fall. Macoun was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1932. It’s named for a famous Canadian fruit breeder.
Ever hear that Golden Delicious is the yellow cousin of the popular Red Delicious apple? Actually, they are related in name only, but this honey sweet apple is a special treat all on its own.
Excellent for eating, salads, and sauces
Picture a fresh fruit cup featuring beautiful, snow-white apples. It’s likely made with Cortland, the very best salad apple. This great, all-purpose apple was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1898.Sweet, with a hint of tartness
Excellent for eating, salads, sauces, pies and baking
Cortland apples are wonderful for kabobs, fruit plates and garnishes because they don't turn brown quickly when cut.
The Stayman-Winesap is a cross between a Stayman apple and a Winesap apple. The combination of the two strains produces an apple of exceptional eating quality.The Stayman-Winesap’s firm yellow flesh; crisp, coarse texture; and its tart, rich wine-like taste makes it memorable. Some say it smells like cinnamon. Stayman-Winesap’s thick skin maintains sufficient moisture within the flesh to keep the apple crispy to the bite and flavorful to the taste.The late maturing Stayman-Winesaps keep well and can last until spring if properly stored or placed in a fruit cellar. This multi-purpose apple is excellent when eaten fresh, or used in pies, desserts, applesauce, and cider.
A TRIP TO DONALDSON'S FARM
One of my favorite farms in New Jersey, Donaldson's Farm is located in Hackettstown, N.J. Today I am here filming my Apple segment for Weekend Today in New York. I especially love this farm in the fall when the apple orchard and the pumpkins are in season. A family run farm it's a great place to take your family for a day trip and enjoy what made America great, FARMING. The apples from Donaldson's are great tasting, juicy, crunchy, and a great taste of fall. Enjoy the fall weather and please support your LOCAL FARMERS
Click the link below for apple show
Managed and operated a family owned farm/produce business for retail, wholesale, and fruit baskets. Pete has been in the produce business his whole life, and started out selling produce off the back of a truck at auctions and at his parents' roadside stand. Pete's family has been in business since 1953 at the same location in Bergenfield, New Jersey. From 1971 - 1997 Pete owned and operated this family "seasonal" business that includes at Christmas - Christmas trees, wreaths, and fruit baskets. During Easter we sell various plants, gourmet baskets and fruit baskets - Mother's Day - plants, fresh cut flowers, fruit baskets. At Halloween - pumpkins, corn stalks, etc. The produce store is open between April and December with retail, wholesale, and fruit baskets.
In January 1998 he turned over the business to his son Peter Charles making him the 3rd generation to own Napolitano's Produce. In April of 2006, Napolitano's Produce closed it's doors after 53 years, a sad day but everything comes to an end. I would like to thank all the faithful customers who shopped my family store over the past 53 years. It was a privilege serving you. In June 2000 - he started as a Fruit & Vegetable Buyer for S. Katzman Produce at Hunts Point Market, Bronx, New York.Pete comes from a large family with his father being the 20th child - "That's why we are in the food business".
Since our establishment in 1975, we have been dedicated to providing fresh, high-quality produce to our customers. Over the years, we have built a strong reputation for our reliability and commitment to excellence.
We offer a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables sourced from local farms and international markets. Our produce is carefully selected and inspected to ensure that it meets our high standards of quality and freshness.
Our team of experienced professionals is committed to providing exceptional service to our customers. We work closely with our clients to understand their needs and provide customized solutions that meet their specific requirements.