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U.S. 19 sees improvements, but businesses feel pain in Clearwater


By Theodora Aggeles, Times Correspondent

Saturday, April 2, 2011 3:18pm


For almost a year, A&N Italian Pork Store and Deli has watched its business dwindle. Gone is the lunchtime crowd that ordered thick deli sandwiches. Gone too, the Saturday crowd that bought homemade sausage and delicacies of Southern Italian cuisine.

All that Nunziata "Nancy" Pisani Bowers — known to her customers as "Momma" — sees now is machinery, hard hats and road construction in front of Allen's Creek Shopping Center on U.S. 19.

"We've lost 40 percent of our walk-in business," said Bowers, who came to America from Italy at the age of 16. "I've had this deli for almost 28 years. People miss the entrance and don't want to make U-turns. No one walks by. We're the only business left in this shopping center, and we want to stay open."

Part of the problem is pedestrians can't stroll up to the deli just south of Belleair Road. The sidewalk is closed. Construction and traffic congestion keeps potential customers away. Repeat customers had issues too when the main entrance was closed and a smaller one appeared at the vacant end of the shopping center.

"We had a beach customer call in a large order," Bowers said. "She drove by, then made a U-turn and missed the opening again. She went home and called. We had to make arrangements for a delivery."

Road construction mishaps have also caused problems. On March 14, crews hit a water main while digging. Water flooded the parking lot, but none flowed from the faucets.

"That rupture happened early in the morning," said Tim Brooker, 17, of Indian Rocks Beach, a homeschooled student who works part time behind the counter. "Around 11:30, during our lunch business, water was shut off."

'We're losing business'

Bowers' nephew, Mario Pierluca, in charge of sales and marketing, has worked at the deli for 10 years. He's been handling construction issues, besides trying to drum up business.

When customers complained about missing the new entrance, having to make U-turns and backtrack, Pierluca called Joseph Blasewitz, senior project manager for Parsons Brinckerhoff, which is working on the reconstruction of U.S. 19 through Clearwater.

"I told him the blue sign they put up was minuscule," Pierluca said. "People are concentrating on traffic flow changes, accidents and lane closures. They can't see where to turn in. We're losing business."

According to Pierluca, Blasewitz tried to help. He immediately came out to speak with Pierluca and had an electronic sign installed. Blasewitz and his crew also patronize the deli for lunch when they can, Pierluca said, but those sales cannot make up for the roughly $15,000 the deli says it has lost.

"We acknowledge that challenges on our part during construction have created challenges for this deli. We really appreciate that they've been more than patient," said Kris Carson, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation.

"We placed a message board as a temporary solution, because the driveway is a bit farther down. We're hoping it will direct people in," she said. "The parking lot was also partially damaged with the water main break, and we've told the contractor they have to have it restored within two weeks."

But A&N isn't the only business affected by the road work.

"Construction and the economy have both taken away business," said April Groth, manager of Citrus Country Groves, who has worked at the store for 32 years. "Sometimes people say they miss the turn. With the construction, it's (Belleair and U.S. 19) become a dangerous intersection."

Survival worries

For 11 years, Jacqueline Ayyub has owned Mediterranean Food and Gift Market. She says she wakes up every morning worried about what will happen to her shop on U.S. 19.

"I'm scared that when this bridge (overpass) is done, I will lose all my business," Ayyub said. "When cars drive over, who will see my store? This is my dream. I have worked hard to make it happen. What has taken a lifetime to build can be lost through no fault of my own."

According to the FDOT, the construction project will remove traffic lights on U.S. 19 between Whitney Road and State Road 60. They will be replaced with two new interchanges at Belleair Road and Seville Boulevard to create signal-free travel from 49th Street to Sunset Point Road. Frontage roads will be added to provide access to local businesses.

Right now, catering orders keep the A&N Deli afloat, but Bowers isn't sure how long she can stay open. She knows if she can get customers in the door, they'll see the cases of Boar's Head meats and crusty Italian bread, and smell the sauces cooking.

"We know it can be painful going through the whole construction process," said Carson of the FDOT. "We're trying everything we can to help."

Meanwhile, "Momma" will continue to cook and prepare for the long lines of customers she believes will return.



Made by Momma- Tampa Bay Times Article

At an Italian market in Clearwater, the food is seasoned with tradition and time.

By JANET K. KEELER
Published December 6, 2006


CLEARWATER -- In a rush-rush world, it is easy to forget how fabulous food can taste.

So often we demand our meals fast and eat them even quicker. They don't taste much better than a brown box, but we eat them just the same because they're ready and in front of us.

Our modern penchant for cooking and eating in mere minutes steers us away from slow, flavorful food. Occasionally, we are reminded of what we are missing when we get a taste of something utterly delicious; maybe even something like Momma used to make.

That's the reason Nancy Bowers and her A&N Italian Pork Store & Deli are such gems. You can pick up a meal in minutes, but you can bet it wasn't made that fast. Lush red sauce smacks of hours on the stove, and stuffed artichokes start with fresh produce and homemade bread crumbs.

Five types of fresh sausages nest in shining refrigerator cases, and on top of the stainless steel are packages of cookies such as pizzelle and biscotti. Above those hang links of sopressata, Italian dry-cured salami, also made on the premises. Several times a day, Bowers plunges her hands into warm water to form fresh mozzarella. The cheese is milky-rich, as if the cow might be tied up out back.

A&N is a place to go when you are hankering for Southern Italian takeout. It might even be the spot to hang out if you're from Brooklyn or Long Island and need a taste of home that can't be bought in a grocery store.

On a recent visit, both Italian and New York accents peppered the air. Someone even uttered "Bada-bing."

An Italian farm girl

Don't let the name fool you. Nancy Bowers started life in Contursi, Italy, as Nunziata Pisani. America and marriage changed her name, but neither dampened her love for cooking authentic Italian food. Momma, as everyone calls her, has an impish smile and arms eager for hugging. Get her laughing and you might never want to leave the shop.

She tosses "I love you, baby" in a rapid-fire squeak, and no one would doubt she means it.

Bowers learned to make simple, slow food on the family farm near Salerno in the Campania region. There were always hungry mouths to feed with nine brothers and sisters.

"As a girl, I loved to cook. That was my passion," she says.

Her mother taught her the art of red sauce, one of the hallmarks of Southern Italian cuisine, along with numerous other dishes. In Northern Italy, butter, cream, fresh egg pastas and polenta dominate. But in the warm south, which has a longer growing season, the tomato is king, along with olive oil and dried pasta. Food there is not spicy and is best described as smooth and comforting.

Bowers left Italy for New York in 1967 at age 16 and landed in Florida in 1981. She's 56 now and has lived in the States nearly three-quarters of her life but could easily pass for an Italian tourist on holiday.

Tradition at the deli

For 25 years, A&N has been tucked into the same small strip mall on U.S. 19, just south of Citrus Country Groves at Belleair Road. Orange Blossom Groves used to be in that location.

Businesses have come and gone on either side, but A&N survives quite nicely, selling imported Italian grocery items along with Bowers' homemade delicacies. Hard-core Brooklynites will be especially pleased to find dried pasta from Pastosa.

Bowers and her crew are busy in the days leading up to Christmas. The traditional sweet panettone bread is already in stock, and she is taking orders for holiday parties. A&N offers the labor-intensive pizza rustica, a dough pie filled with layers of ricotta cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto, sopressata, Genoa salami, ham and fresh mozzarella.

She closes the door at A&N for her own holiday but still doesn't leave the kitchen. Bowers will cook for 25 to 30 people at her Indian Rocks Beach home on Christmas Eve.

There they will dine on antipasto, fresh tortellini soup, a baked pasta dish, roast beef, turkey, maybe ham, plus vegetables and a fennel salad. Don't forget the roasted red peppers and special sweets such as the doughnutlike zeppollis and sweet raviolis filled with chestnuts, honey and chocolate, then dusted with powdered sugar.

At Bowers' home and her Italian market, good food takes time to prepare and to enjoy.

Market Report: Do you have a favorite ethnic market that is preserving traditional foodways? We are interested in profiling markets that not only stock groceries but also prepare authentic food from around the world. To suggest a market, call Janet K. Keeler at (727) 893-8586 or e-mailjkeeler@sptimes.com.

IF YOU GO

A&N Italian Pork Store & Deli, 17956 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater; (727) 531-6371. Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The market sells fresh sausages and mozzarella cheese, plus a variety of Italian takeout dishes and imported grocery items.

Stuffed Artichokes

6 large artichokes

 

For stuffing:

1 pound unseasoned bread crumbs

1/4 pound grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1/4 pound grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1/4 pound green olives, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

3 eggs

1 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pine nuts, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

 

For broth:

1/2 cup chopped onions

4 garlic gloves, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

4 cups chicken broth

- Prepare artichokes by trimming off stem at bottom so they will sit flat in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Trim off 3/4-inch at the top. Also, snip off prickly tips of leaves. Loosen the leaves of the artichokes by hand so that stuffing can be pressed between them.

 

- Work quickly to make the stuffing or the artichokes will brown. (To prevent this, squeeze lemon juice over them.) Mix all stuffing ingredients. Place artichokes in pan and pack 1/6 of bread crumb mixture into each one.

 

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

 

- While oven is heating, prepare broth by sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil. Add chicken broth and pour mixture over artichokes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 90 minutes or until artichokes are tender.

Serves 6.

Source: Nancy Bowers, A&N Italian Pork Store and Deli, Clearwater

A&N Italian
Pork