Casa Natal

The first time we entered Casa Natal, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm.  Of course, not wanting to embarrass myself I kept my glee in check, but oh… in my head a party was going on.

I am a hard core lover of old-school general stores.  I seriously love them.  I love the shelves lined with things I can’t even imagine needing, but still want to see.  I love the wooden drawers filled with all sorts of goodies and I love the fact that I can spend an hour or two (or three) and not even begin to feel as if I taken it all in.  And, don’t even get me started on the history and the stories those shelves could tell.  That’s how I felt the first time we entered Casa Natal and my fascination with the store only grew each time we returned.  I didn’t even mind that Abi was engrossed in yet another conversation(s) about Port wine with the store’s owner, Nuno, because there were rows and rows of delightful objects to keep me occupied.

Casa Natal

Look at the number of drawers filled with OH so many delightful goodies!

Our first visit to Casa Natal was, of course, in search of a particular bottle of Port wine.  There is a story about that particular bottle but I will save it for another day because, well… because some things are best left unsaid in the present moment.  We didn’t find that particular bottle, but oh, we opened Pandora’s box of goodness.

It was on our second visit that Abi struck up a conversation with Nuno and as they wandered off looking at bottles and reading labels and discussing vintages, etc., I began to get up close and personal with each and every drawer in the store.  I couldn’t take it all in and I just knew there was a story to be told.

The Story of Casa Natal

One Road:  In what year was Casa Natal established?  Please share the story of how the store came into being.

Nuno:  “Casa Natal was established in 1900 by a group of merchants from Porto. A society was formed and the store was founded under the the concept of “mercearia fina” (which could roughly be translated as “fine or exquisite deli”).  The original location was in Rua do Bonjardim. With the business’ increasing success, the initial owners decided to establish a second store through which they could respond to the growing demand. However, due to lack of structural conditions in the ancient original building, the first place was closed and Casa Natal continued its path in Rua Fernandes Tomás, where it still functions presently.”

One Road:  Is Casa Natal a family owned/operated business?

Nuno:  “Yes, Casa Natal is managed as a family operation.  My family owns the business, it is in our blood, commercial activity goes back four generations.  As the general manager of the company, I invest a lot of time and dedication into making the business grow. We have another company that is dedicated to distribution and we are thinking about opening another Casa Natal location in Porto.”

One Road:  What makes Casa Natal stand out from other similar stores in Porto?

Nuno:  “I would consider two major factors of differentiation: on the one hand, personalised and specialised [attending/assistance] service, focused on providing the customers with the best and most adequate products for their needs and interests, but also keeping in mind the importance of a traditional experience within the city’s history and culture; on the other hand, a vast and careful selection of quality products.”

The Importance of a Traditional Experience

One thing we noticed in our many visits to the store was indeed the importance of a traditional experience.  Nuno and his family and staff treat each and every customer as if they are dear friends and each customer receives full attention until all of their needs and wants are met.  Sadly, I think this type of customer service is becoming a bit of a lost art.  But it is definitely alive and well at Casa Natal.

Casa Natal

The owner, Nuno. His customer service is exemplary!  Look at the goodies behind him!

One Road:  Approximately, how many brands of port wine do you carry? And, approximately, how many bottles of port wine do you have in stock and what is the oldest vintage of Port wine that you have, as well as the most expensive bottle?

Nuno:  “We offer more than fifty different brands of port wine – from the better-known Taylor, Fonseca, Barros, etc, to smaller local productions of still reduced notoriety, but certified quality. With more than three-hundred references of port wine only, our stock goes beyond ten thousand bottles. The oldest vintage we have would be a Valriz from 1858, and a Burmester Reserve from 1887, which values at €1,800.00 and is the most expensive.

One Road:  Please offer a few examples of some of the other products besides port and wine products that you sell, and what are some of the best-selling products?

Nuno:  Besides port and wine, our inventory includes dried fruits and seeds; chocolates and traditional cookies; salted codfish and canned frish; olive oil; cheese; fresh fruits from the season; sausages and smoked meats.  I’d say our best selling products include Port wine (Taylor’s, Ramos Pinnto, Nieport, Burmester, Sandeman, to name a few of those preferred by our regular customers); the salted codfish – an inescapable constant in Portuguese gastronomy – and the canned fish; and also the dried fruit and seeds, particularly to those who seek a healthier diet.

Casa Natal

Salted cod! The mainstay of Portuguese gastronomy.

The Salted Codfish

We can certainly attest to the salted codfish as being an inescapable constant in Portuguese gastronomy.  It would not be too much of a stretch to say that the salted cod is hanging in pretty much every shop in Porto.  Every grocery store, fine food store, cheese shop, fruit and vegetable market, you name it.  It is everywhere.  And, no, we did not imbibe.  I guess the German roots in me outweigh the Portuguese roots when it comes to the salted cod.  It is definitely an acquired taste but as Nuno explained to us, it is a mainstay on every Portuguese dinner table on Christmas Eve.

We asked Nuno the same question we asked Jorge at Garrafeira do Carmo and Andreia at Sogevinus.  We found it interesting that all three of them shared the same general opinion and optimism when it comes to tourism in Porto and the economic growth for the city.

One Road:  Are you seeing a rise in tourism in the City of Porto?  Are you experiencing a rise in number of tourists who visit your store and why do you think that is? And, finally, what percentage of your business is with the local population?

Nuno: “Yes, indeed. An ascending arch of growth in the city’s tourism has been clearly on the rise since approximately 2012. Considering the increasing number of low-cost flights and subsequent widening of lodging arrangements – from hotels to Airbnb apartments and rooms – Porto has become a fashion destination, receiving an incredible boost in its economical and cultural dynamic by tourists from all around the world. Throughout the year, the percentage of local population {visitors to our store} would be about 50%, which is in quite a balanced proportion with the travelers’ side of the business. However, around Christmas time, the number of local customers is definitely higher.”

What’s Not to Love?

I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that Casa Natal is by far my favorite store in Porto.  I mean, seriously, what’s not to love?!  If you find yourself in Porto and want a traditional shopping experience, do not miss out on a visit to Casa Natal and say hello to Nuno from us.

Casa Natal

Casa Natal – Porto, Portugal

If You Go:

Casa Natal

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Rua Fernandes Tomás, 833 (3,530.02 mi)
Porto, Portugal 4000-219

Casanatal@sapo.pt

+351 22 205 2537

Monday – Friday

9.00AM to 7.30PM

Saturdays, 9.00AM-1.00PM and 2.30PM-7.00PM.

For the month of December:

Open every day of the week, Sundays and holidays included

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