For years, SFoodie has found it impossible to visit the Alemany Farmers' Market without gawking at Rosa de Santis's citrus stand. Her cara caras and oro blanco grapefruit are positively mundane — there are boxes of sweet limes and nobbly Seville oranges to paw through and smell, and up on the cash register table De Santis keeps even rarer fruits like Buddha's hand citrons and calamansi limes. We've brought home fresh bergamots to zest into a fruit crisp, and pink limes to make into a cooler. This may be the best place in the city to hit up for cocktail experimentation.
De Santis, who moved to California with her family from Italy decades ago — somewhere between Rome and Naples, she says — has been selling citrus at San Francisco farmers' markets for 30 years; she's at both the Alemany and Civic Center markets. The De Santises didn't set out to grow Filipino limes or or strangely shaped Chinese citrons. They just wanted to grow blood oranges, like the kind they ate back in Italy. “Where we come from, that 's the only orange we know,” she says. “But over here, when we started selling it, people would get upset. 'What'd you put in my orange?' they'd ask. We had to do a lot of education. Now they love it.”