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If you like your fruits and vegetables paired with a charming history lesson and Frank Sinatra on the stereo, you should make the trip to the Golden Gate Fruit Market in South Brooklyn. The owner, John Cortese, is a treasure trove of Brooklyn stories.
John Cortese at Golden Gate Fruit Market
“In 1939, I was 14 years old, delivering orders for my father,” says Cortese. “Since then, the only changes are the scales and the cash register.”
On a crisp Saturday morning, Cortese hustles me around his fruit and vegetable market with an energy that belies his 91 years. He has his son (also named John) climb up on the shelves to show me a picture of Casey Stengel and the Yankees in the clubhouse. Joe DiMaggio is visible in the photo behind the pot-bellied stove, but we can’t find the late Yogi Berra.
As he shows me around, Cortese laments that some vegetables just aren’t popular anymore, like oyster plants (“Like a parsnip with a green top. The German people are familiar with it.”) He shows me a recent New York Times article about him and the shop. When I tell him he must be popular, he of course has an answer for that too.
“Well, don’t tell me you’re not popular, with that smile.”