Andrea L. Mastellone

Owner of Italian delicatessen in Parkville for many decades was an authority on the Mediterranean wines he sold

February 24, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen |

Andrea Louis Mastellone, whose Italian delicatessen and wine shop in Parkville was a destination for decades for lovers of the cheeses, meats, pastas, pastries and Mediterranean wines that filled its shelves and cases, died Feb. 17 of a stroke at Franklin Square Hospital Center.

The Perry Hall resident was 85.

Mr. Mastellone was born and raised in Meta di Sorrento, near Naples, Italy.

He was a graduate of the Nautical Institute and served in the Italian merchant marine during World War II.

After the war, he immigrated to Coney Island, N.Y., where he lived briefly with relatives before moving in 1947 to Baltimore.

For six years, he worked with his uncle, William Veniero, who owned Sorrento's, an Italian grocery store that was originally on Greenmount Avenue.

Seeking to serve the Italian community that had settled in Northeast Baltimore, uncle and nephew moved the store in 1954 to its present location in a nondescript masonry building with an awning in the 7200 block of Harford Road.

During the 1960s, Mr. Mastellone earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from the Johns Hopkins University but declined to take the certified public accountant exam, preferring to remain working in the store.

He eventually bought out his uncle in 1975, and he and his wife, the former Margaret Rose Zannino, whom he married in 1956, took over operation of the business. They renamed it Mastellone Deli and Wine Shop.

The couple worked side by side, seven days a week, for nearly three decades until selling the business and retiring in 1999.

With a head of wavy silver-white hair, aquiline nose and hazel eyes, Mr. Mastellone looked more like an Italian aristocrat or an actor than a neighborhood grocer.

"I have always thought that besides being a way of making a living, owning a store was a mission," Mr. Mastellone explained to a Baltimore Sun reporter in 1984.

He said his mission was to provide high-quality Italian products that were "as authentic as possible on this side of the ocean."

Mr. Mastellone worked in the rear of the shop making its much-sought-after rounds of fresh mozzarella, which began life each day at 7:30 a.m. as cooked curds, and grinding the pork, which was transformed into savory sweet and hot sausage, and boning prosciutto hams. His wife waited on customers.

Customers who venerated Italian cooking quickly made the store into something of a gastronomic shrine.

They came for the wide selection of hot peppers, as well as a dozen brands of prized extra-virgin olive oil, hand-cracked Sicilian olives, sun-dried tomatoes, cotechino di Modena, tomato sauces, cans of pesto, pancetta, tiny artichoke hearts, herbs, cold meats, salted codfish, squid, and every size and shape of pasta.

Above the cash register hung long racks containing prosciutto hams, hard sausages and trails of dried Greek oregano.

Other specialties were the homemade marinated eggplant and cannoli cream.

An area of particular interest to Mr. Mastellone were the thousands of bottles of wines that included barolos, barbarescos, astis, sangiovese and dolcettos from his native Italy, which he had in stock for customers and could speak of authoritatively.

He had no favorites and said in a 1985 Baltimore Magazine profile that "I do like them all."

"There is a small personal reserve in the friendly attention he pays visitors, but his conversation is nevertheless peppered with 'ciao, ciao,' as customers and wine dealers come and go during a typical morning," observed the magazine.

Tim Poremski, who has been manager of Ceriello, an Italy specialty grocery in Belvedere Square, since 2005, went to work for Mr. Mastellone when he was a sophomore in high school.

"Mr. Mastellone was one of my favorite people that I've ever been fortunate to meet. He was incredibly knowledgeable about food, wine, politics, sports and life, and brought a lot of credibility to the food trade. He was a master when it came to food and wine, and he took the snob element out of wine," said Mr. Poremski, who described him as a caring mentor.

"He was always willing to share his knowledge. He was such a beautiful person and a positive influence on me," he said. "He even taught me how to make the mozzarella, which was a closely guarded secret and a major draw for the store. I was flattered that he passed it on to me."

Mr. Poremski, recalling his 17 years working for Mr. Mastellone, described him as gifted with a "gentle disposition and a positive outlook."

He added, "I grew up there. He taught me my trade. I owe him a lot."

Mr. Mastellone, who had lived in Perry Hall since 1970, was a founding member of Italian Wine and Food Advocates and was a past president of Academia Italiana Della Cucina.

He was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Fullerton.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Saturday at Our Lady of Pompei Roman Catholic Church.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Mastellone is survived by a son, Salvatore J. Mastellone of Carney; a daughter, Immacolata "Tina" Chaput of Joppatowne; a brother, Antonio Mastellone of Sorrento; a sister, Rosalia Romano of Milan, Italy; and four grandchildren.

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