The insiders guide to shopping at Russo's

9:53 AM

Tucked away on an industrial road along the Charles river in Watertown is "The food lover's food store" a.k.a. Russo's. Because there are a lot of food lovers in the greater Boston area, navigating the place can be challenging. Tiny aisles, tons of people, not to mention a crazy assortment of produce that makes you stop and admire (it's hard not to touch the buddah's hand).

There are tons of resources on why Russo's is so great (be sure to check out @foodiemommy's blog post: Why I would clone Russo's). I wanted to take a different spin, and since we shop at Russo's multiple times a week, I thought I'd share my top 10 tips and traps to avoid.

1. When to go: Or I should start with when not to go - the weekends, the day or two before a major holiday and lunchtime. It can be an absolute zoo with lines winding to the back of the building. If you need to go on a weekend, get there when it first opens. During the week, we like to go before lunch as everything is still fresh and fully stocked. Late afternoons are good because this tends to be a bit more quiet. 

2. Parking: If you're coming from Watertown Sq., park in the lot to the left of the building. You may have to dodge some of the delivery trucks coming and going, but this lot has a better flow than the original lot. You also avoid the traffic light by parking in this lot.

3. Cart v. Basket: If you're only going for a few items, definitely grab a basket. You will thank me when you can deftly maneuver around the traffic jam of shopping carts.

4. Flowers & Plants: There's a good chance you will want to add a bouquet of flowers or potted plants to your shopping list after you see what is available (and at reasonable prices). My advice is to purchase your food first then buy plants/flowers. There is a register for plant sales just outside the entrance.

5. Pantry items: Russo's has a great variety of pantry items from dried pasta, to fish sauce, honey, chocolate, marinades - you name it. But because these items are stocked below the produce, it's pretty tough to find a specific item since there are no aisle markers. Not to mention poking around down there holds up cart traffic. My advice is to make note of some of the items for another trip or explore during slower periods.

6. Breads: Russo's bakes most of their bread on premises. For fresh out of the oven goodness, you will want to get there when it opens. By mid-late afternoon, most of it is gone. They will even slice a loaf of bread for you (Farmhouse is our favorite).

7. Deli counter: Russo's deli counter is small but offers top quality artisan meats. It can be chaotic, and this corner of the store can get jammed pretty quickly. Be sure to check out the menu of freshly prepared sandwiches (and order by the cheese counters).

8. Rosticceria: Russo's has a small but delicious assortment of prepared foods . This area can get especially packed around dinner time. Not always available and even hard to find is their fresh baked pizza for only $1.25 for mongo, deep-dish style slices. We've had luck getting a slice or two just before lunchtime.

9. Treats: Russo's offers tons of baked goods - from cookies, to pies, to cakes and pastries. You almost can't go wrong with any of it. But if you are there in the AM, check out their scones and muffins by the salad bar (ha!). Outstanding.

10. Checking out: There are limited registers, so the line to check out can get pretty long. Because the registers are in tandem, the registers closest to the front of the building often get overlooked. There is a line for 6 items or less - so take advantage of that if you qualify. But don't be surprised if that line is packed with folks buying a pie or flowers on a holiday.

Oh yes, one last word of advice. Small carts and small aisles can get nuts with more than one kid.

Happy shopping!
Russo and Sons
560 Pleasant Street
Watertown, MA

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