192 Place du Marché du Nord
In 1967, 19-year old Nino Marcone landed in Montreal - not to see Expo 67, but to join his uncle who ran a produce store in Little Italy. In Roseto degli Abruzzi, his hometown, his parents were tenant farmers. The price of the rent? 70% of the crops. "I had three brothers, my father and my mother. Every night we went to bed hungry." The answer? Emigration. At 15 and a half, he was already off to Germany to work as a welder, while his uncle (lo zio) lived in Canada. Back home for summer vacation, lo zio told Nino that people in America spoke French. As is most European countries, Italian public schools teach second languages to children; Nino knew a little French and decided to try his luck in Montreal.
After working on St-Laurent for a few months, Nino learned of a small fruit stand for sale in the Market. With his cousin (and the zio's financial backing), Nino Marcone went into business, fell in love with a neighbor's visiting cousin, got married and settled down. Three years later, he bought "Chez Louis," the neighboring shop, and operated it until 1990. Meanwhile, he built a splendid vacation home in the land of his youth, the Abruzzis. His wife liked it so much that she decided not to return to Montreal and gave Nino an ultimatum: Italy or divorce. Nino chose Little Italy and lost contact with his children, who were 6 and 9 at the time. "Today," he says proudly, "my daughter is an anesthetist and my son has just received his Ph. D. in anthropology."
Nino has spent all of his adult life getting up at 2:00AM to buy his produce at the Central Market. "There is no other way to do it: you must double-check every box, one by one. They all go through my hands and I only keep the best." With his new wife (a Quebecer, and a former client from the Chez Louis days), he went back into business in 1995 when he opened Nino's. He has also reacquired his father's house in Roseto degli Abruzzi and expects to retire there - someday!