This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
"The Italian ware house, first established in London in the reign of Charles II, is an institution peculiar to the British Metropolis. In the last century, when a gentleman went to Italy, he generally resided there for at least six months. When he returned and settled down in his grand town mansion, he was not satisfied with having a French cook; he sighed for the macaroni and vermicelli, the Parmesan cheese, the polenta, the morta-della di Bologna, the Lacrima Christi, and the chianti, and especially the pure olive-oil of Florence and Lucca. It was to supply his lordship or his honor with such articles that the Italian warehouses were founded and grew apace. The Italian warehousemen of the past, however, dealt in other commodities besides wine and oil, macaroni and cheese. They were as useful to my lady as to my lord; they imported from Italy lute-strings - a corruption of lustrini - and paduasoys; the rich cut velvets of Genoa; the stiff black silks and splendid lace -a legacy from the Spanish domination-from Milan, with beads from Venice, and gloves and coral from Naples." The Italian warehouse may be found in most of the large cities of the United States, and there the steward finds his foreign cheeses and all such specialties as are raised above the ordinary public demand by their prices.