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Jacob Passy | A Bit Off

Gnocchi gnoms

Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 08:11

While daylight saving time may be great for that extra hour of sleep on that one day we turn the clocks back, it eventually sends me into a tailspin. The darkness combined with the November cold makes for a great deal of seasonal affective disorder. Perfect for a pick−me−up, right? And my pick−me−up happens to be gnocchi.

I love how the potato dumplings are tender but chewy and that they go well with just about any sauce. But when it came time for me to find a pack of gnocchi, I decided to forego the usual trip to Shaw’s. In the Boston area, with its rich Italian community, I was sure there would be one store that would suit my needs.

And yes, I thought of Dave’s Fresh Pasta on Holland Street, the usual go−to destination that Jumbos flock to for less−than−typical foods. But the prices are pretty high there, and I wanted to go somewhere I’d not yet been before.

When I made the trip to Highland Avenue last week to write about the dueling doodad shops of Davis Squared and Magpie, I found just what I was looking for — Sessa’s Italian Specialties.

First of all, what is it about this street? The stores on Highland are fun and quirky but less frequently visited than those elsewhere in Davis Square. But boy, is a trip to Sessa’s worth it. Walking in, you are immediately greeted by the scent of garlic and freshly sliced salami.

The scene reminded me of the little grocers you could find in an Italian city like Venice: cramped, dark and fully packed to the brim with goods to discover.

The shop boasts an amazing selection of anything you could imagine from the boot−shaped country, be it pasta or fruit preserves. My mouth watered when I saw a case filled solely with pizzelles, the Italian waffle cookies that come in a variety of flavors. I was sure to pick up the ones that had hints of anise, one of the more common flavorings.

This is also undoubtedly the place to go to for other traditional Italian fare that you might not find elsewhere. There are more varieties of olive oil for sale than I could count. Better than that, they had an entire case devoted to the bitter sodas that could only come from the Mediterranean.

But the entire time I was there, I couldn’t but wonder — why have I never been here before? The shop has just as much to offer as Dave’s does. Perhaps it’s the look of the store. After all, its quaint interior is masked by a storefront more suggestive of a neighborhood sub shop than a market. Or maybe it’s because Highland Avenue is not where you turn for food that isn’t cupcakes or bread.

Whichever is the case, the store is a Somerville staple. It’s been around since 1979, and a glimpse into its page on Yelp shows that there are generations of Somerville−area residents for whom this is a mainstay. A word of warning from those folks, though: beware of expiration dates. It’s no surprise that in the dimly lit and crowded store, one or two items may be past their prime.

At the end of the day, though, the store made me happy. It was a wonderful escape from the typical supermarkets we flock to without question. And, worry not, I got my gnocchi. It was delicious.

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Jacob Passy is a senior majoring in international relations. He can be reached at Jacob.Passy@tufts.edu.

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