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Big John's PFI - Seattle


In searching I found a number of references to Big John's PFI but always in the context of other places selling certain types of food. I think this place deserves its very own shout-out!!! We were visiting in January (during your big snowstorm - haha!) and a friend asked if I saw some dried gigante beans to pick them up for her. A quick google and I found them here. What an amazing place. It's in an industrial area with no streetfront presence. You have to know it's there and it seems plenty of people do. It's plain as can be; a small warehouse type space. They specialize in Mediterranean and Italian products and it's a treasure trove. So many, many things in bulk, i.e., grains, beans, spices. And row after row of canned, jarred, dried things. Caperberries, pastas, oils, vinegars. You name it, you'll find it. Also a nice selection of frozen items; we got some Mergueza sausages and frozen salt cured anchovies. A big selection of cheese but they only sell by the pound. Or if over a certain price/lb, they'll sell by the "light pound" so a little less. On our recent visit, we definitely had this on our must-do list. I've never seen a place like this anywhere. Hopefully you'll check it out.

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  1. PFI is every 'in-the-know' Seattle foodie's best kept secret!

    I have been shopping there for years - and usually try to go with a friend so we can split cheeses, etc. so can buy more on a visit. You are correct on the excellent selection of bulk items, including unusual flours, bulk single-origin chocolate, other excellent baking supplies in addition to the grains, spices, herbs, beans, etc. that you mention.

    Packaged items from all around the Mediterannean basin, and a wall of jam and preserves.

    My FAVORITE store, really in all of Seattle. Glad you found it C. Oliver!

    1 Reply
    1. re: gingershelley

      Going with a friend is a good idea from the cheese standpoint. But going with a 'foodie' friend could get even more expensive! S/he would probably egg me on to buy more and more and more. I bought a couple of things that I don't even know what to do with but they looked interesting :) It IS an amazing place, isn't it?

    2. Forgot to mention that they can ship me any nonperishables.

      1. Although you can spend lot's of money because everything seems to be irresistible, there are also bargains to be found. Shop on off hours to avoid the crowds. Very helpful staff.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JayDK

          We have a routine :) Dim sum at Jade Garden no later than 930 probably always on a weekday, then a stop at Uwajimaya (bring the cooler) and then to PFI. Crowds have never been a problem. Wonderful place.

        2. Had my first shopping experience at PFI today and Wow, just Wow! I'll definitely go back. While there I talked with a woman who told me about a DK Market in Renton that features foods from many cuisines of the world. Anybody been there?

          3 Replies
          1. re: firecracker

            It IS quite the place, isn't it?!? Yeah, let's here about the place in Renton. We ALWAYS have to make an Ikea run when in SEA so will have to check it out.

            1. re: firecracker

              Glad you enjoyed PFI, Firecracker! I brought a boyfriend there years ago who was an enthusiastic foodie, and I swear tears welled up in his eyes as he discovered all the goodies there.

              I have to set myself a $ limit before going, or I will break the bank - not because it is so expensive (some items are, but they have come along way and are fine ingredients), but i just want to bring home so many things! The bulk offerings, including spices, are great values.

              1. re: gingershelley

                I had tried to find the place other years, but was unsuccessful. Threw the addy into the GPS yesterday and it became hard not to find it! Their olive oil soap was terrific on my dry skin this morning and I loved being able to get small amounts of whole cumin and granulated garlic without having to hit Market Spice and struggling to find parking. Found some other foodstuffs (capers, tube of tomato paste, Italian tomatoes ...)

            2. We just had a few of the Merguez sausages that we bought there. They were in the frozen section, ten to a package. I'd only had Merguez once before and I thought they were really good. These were crazy good :) My mouth is still doing a spicy, little happy dance. Check 'em out when you're there. Though frozen, I let them thaw and divided into two-person meal size and refroze. Didn't suffer from that. Mmmmm.

              2 Replies
              1. re: c oliver

                Those beautiful frozen Merguez are from Uli's at Pike Place Market. Here, it's grilled Merguez, TJ ww HotDog bun, and a bit of Mama Lil's Peppalilli (also at PFI). Uli's will actually grill-you-up-one right now in the Market, with peppers and onions and beer. Once a month, we re-stock with little 2-sausage packets of assorted sausages, except for Merguez it's 12 (take 12, they're small).

                1. re: mrnelso

                  You make me drool :) Looking forward to our next visit.

              2. Big John goes back to the Italian immigrant Garlic Gulch days of Seattle's Rainier Valley, think the Borracchini's bakery location. Big John has trucks that deliver Mediterranean and Italian products to the food industry. As a commercial customer of Big John I had the privilege to once sit in his office and chat. The office was worthy because it took me back to the 1950s office of my Dads fruit warehouse. On this occasion Big John established I was from the Yakima Valley then he told be about going to Wapato. I knew Wapato as the field tomato capital of Washington, Big John put a different twist on field crops of the area. Peppers, have you ever traveled in Italy in the fall seeing the piles of drying peppers in the fields? This was the fall passion Big John explained to me. He would travel every fall to Wapato to gather the peppers then dry and store them for his personal use. The intense passion he had for these peppers was the memory that defined Big John for me.

                2 Replies
                1. re: StanleyHoffman

                  Wonderful story and thanks for sharing. It makes the experience even better.

                  1. re: StanleyHoffman

                    Thank you Stanley. It's a pleasure you call forth imagination of Garlic gulch and the characters of its day. Oberto, Merlino, Borrachini, Italo, Delaurenti... carried the standard of Italy in these parts, with Big John Croce, Armandino (and son, Mario and daughter Gina) Batali, and more. Their contributions live on. Pete Delaurenti(and Mimi) introduced white-bread locals to the culinary delights of the Meditteranean, one tasty slice at a time. We went grocery shopping at the low stalls and Pete's every week and he'd hand slices of hot coppa, sopprasata to delighted families. They made us all richer and I remain grateful and appreciative of the contributions immigrants continue to make to culinary culture as new populations enrich us all. In the day it was Dutch, German, Italian, then Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Lao, Somali, Ethiopian, Mexican, Salvadoran... and the beat goes on. Light-rail summons such possibility of chow.