Let’s be honest: 2020 has been hard. And with the new lockdowns rolling through Europe, it’s about to get a whole lot harder. It’s difficult to imagine anyone in any industry anywhere on the planet that hasn’t been affected in some way by Covid-19. When times are tough, escape and connection are important. While the necessary travel restricts and stay-at-home orders have limited our ways of connecting with the places we love, it hasn’t prevented us from bringing some of them into our homes. In fact, there are even new pandemic-influenced ways to do it.
If you’re an Italophile, you can now purchase Italian artisan goods from some wholesalers who have expanded their sales to the general public. Italian heirloom produce once only available to restaurant kitchens in your area may now be delivered to your home. Here are some businesses that are providing Italian food products with local and nationwide delivery so you’re just an online purchase away from recreating a favorite meal from a past holiday (or an imagined one from a postponed trip) and you’ll be supporting small Italian producers while you do it:
This houseware store was founded in Bologna’s centro storico in 1783 and is now in the hands of its sixth generation of owners. Antica Aguzzeria sells all sorts of kitchen tools, from strictly traditional to abundantly modern, and has an especially fun assortment of knives and pasta tools. Their wooden pasta boards and brass pasta tools are heirloom-worthy yet affordable and will have you shaping Bologna’s signature egg-enriched pasta wherever you are in no time. They provide free shipping in Italy for orders over €25 and they ship worldwide.
Bronx, NY-based Gustiamo was founded by Italy native Beatrice Ughi to bring spectacular artisan ingredients to American restaurant kitchens and home cooks. The stone-milled Sicilian flour selection is perfect for baking and pasta, whether you’re a pro or a novice, and their pantry items, from vinegar and oils to salted anchovies and tinned tomatoes, are truly the best Italian products in their categories available in the U.S.
Los Angeles County, San Francisco Bay Area, and Merin County residents looking to recreate their favorite seasonal Italian dishes can count on County Line’s fertile farms in Petaluma and Thermal, California for hand-harvested, organic, specialty produce with a strong emphasis on Italian heirloom varieties. Their C.S.A boxes change seasonally and weekly but may include super fresh spigariello, lacinato kale, or baby arugula. The $25 “Original” box is an incredible value. Check their instagram and website for updates on where you can pick up your box in purchased on the County Line website around L.A. (currently including Botanica Food, Eightfold Coffee, Highly Likely, and Lady & Larder). Up north, they offer CSA pick-up at Oakland Grand Lake and Larkspur Marin Mart, and San Rafael Civic Center.
Barbara Adly and Pietro Canali started importing truffles from Italy to Canada in 2014. Since then, they have grown their business to include Italian products from virtually every region including pasta from Benedetto Cavalieri in Puglia, vinegars from Acetaia San Giacomo in Emilia-Romagna, rice from Gli Aironi in the Veneto, and capers from La Nicchia in Sicily.
In 2008, Samuel Nahon and Alexandre Drouard launched Terroirs d’Avenir to bring exceptional French produce from small farms to Paris restaurants. They have since launched 10 retail shops and expanded their sourcing beyond the French border to include products from artisan food producers and small scale farms in Italy. Customers can order fine ingredients for delivery including citrus and nuts from Sicily, durum wheat pasta from Puglia, 24- and 36-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, and even mozzarella di bufala from Campania.
Born as an online farmers’ market in the UK in 2004, this internet start-up grew by early 2020 to supply 1000 restaurant kitchens in London, NY, and Paris. Though their products were originally only available for restaurant wholesale purchases, they have opened up their app to retail shoppers who can buy meticulously sourced, seasonal produce from Italy for delivery in London (Zones 1-4) and the suburbs of Teddington, Kingston Upon Thames, and Twickenham, as well as in Oxford and Cambridge.
Surbir specializes in products from Emiliana-Romagna, the region of Italy that is often evoked by foreigners as having the richest food culture. Of course, competition for this title is fierce and, while I would argue Sicily takes the crown, Emilia-Romagna is home to some exceptional products that reach their greatest expression when they are crafted by small producers (no longer a given in the fields of vinegar and cheese). Surbir’s selection of aged vinegars from Acetaia San Giacomo and 24- to 36-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano is excellent. The site even makes a small geographical exception, selling coffee roasted by Gianni Frasi of Torrefazione Giamaica over the regional border in Verona.
As the name implies, Gourmet Life was founded to supply restaurants with luxury goods like caviar and truffles but now offers a range of delicious, humble Italian products like vegetables preserved under olive oil from Cilento and Salento, colatura di alici (anchovy elixir) from the Amalfi Coat, and a range of chili-infused spreads and sauces from Calabria. Mushroom lovers will love their dried porcini.
Photo: Ed Anderson