(photo: left to right: Creminelli felino, sopressa,mocetta, Calabrese, Milano)
The Working Life and the Italian Deli
I’ve held many odd jobs as a young lad including garbage man, janitor, landscaper, handy man assistant, electrician’s assistant, travel agent, HTML editor, maintenance man at a women’s clothing shop, and, my personal favorite, salumi slicer / panino maker at Zia Teressa’s beloved bottega di generi alimentari (Italian speak for deli).
The jobs I held as a teenager were all near and dear to my heart even if I didn’t realize the positive impact cleaning an elementary school lunch room, picking up foul garbage at five in morning, and handing tools to my intense father would have later in life. All of my early hands on work, as opposed to my formal education, taught me the value of money, getting along with people, and showing up on time.
Values aside, my favorite part time job was working along side Zia Teressa in her small bottega in Pellegrina, Calabria. My job description at her shop ranged from making paninos and slicing meats and cheeses to ringing up customers and bartering with them when they didn’t like the price (an unheard of concept for a 11 year old American kid). What really got me excited however was working with all of the exotic salumi Zia Teresa had in her shop, including soppresseta, prosciutto cotto, coppa, mortadella, pancetta, etc. I’d slice 250 grams for a customer and always sliced an extra piece (or two) for myself for after the customer left; at some point Zia Teressa must have wondered where all of her product was going. Using the large stainless steel slicer was also a highlight for me and dialing in the right size based on the type of salumi I was cutting added to the art of making an excellent panino or getting the right thickness on an order of prosciutto cotto, for example. I like to think that while my love of salumi did not start in Zia’s bottega it was refined and perfected under her roof.
Creminelli Artisan Deli Meats
(photo: Milano, cooked coppa, sopressa, mocetta, Calabrese)
Needless to say, I was more than excited when I received some sample cuts of Creminelli’s new artisan line of whole muscle and salumi product (thank you Cristiano!). Creminelli is, of course, well regarded for their excellent salami product ranging from Casalingo to wild boar, but until recently their product was produced for hand slicing only. What Creminelli has recently introduced is a line of product made for slicing fresh at a fine Italian gastronomia or deli counter, much like what I was doing as a young kid in Calabria. The new products include whole muscle items like coppa, prosciutto crudo, pancetta, mocetta (beef eye round), prosciutto cruddo and larger diameter versions of their traditional salumi such as felino, Calabrese, Milano, finocchiona, etc.
In one word, ALL of the products mentioned above were simply amazing and they are as close to Italian salumi perfection here in the United States as one can get (period). I was especially impressed with the mocetta, coppa (not the cooked variety), Calabrese salami, prosciutto coto, and mortadella which all had the perfect balance of spice, salt, and meaty flavor; one doesn’t simply taste pork with Cristiano’s end product, rather he or she tastes that idealized transformation of cured Italian wonder!
(photo: beautiful chart from Creminelli describing their artisan deli offering)
(photo: our meat slicer and packaged meats)
(photo: left to right: unsliced sopressa, cooked copa, mocetta, Calabrese)
(photo: mortadella prior to slicing)
I sampled the products “straight up” and with just a bit of bread to cleanse the palate as well as in numerous sandwiches or panini combinations, including prosciutto cotto with provola and coppa with whole milk mozzarella and sliced tomatoes. My extended family here in the United States sampled the entire line up at our Easter lunch and, again, the Calabrians in attendance were floored. And if not for the fact that I left our meat slicer at home we would have skipped the capretto, lasagna, etc. and had an Easter lunch comprised solely of Cristiano’s salumi.
In the end, I think the salumi connoisseur in the US has reason to feel less frustrated the next time they go to their local Italian deli because all they need to do is ask the person behind the counter for Creminelli and, in turn, they’ll know they’re getting an authentic Italian product made via an old world process in the new world (read: United States).
(photo: sopressa, homemade ricotta, and extra virgin olive oil panino)
(photo: sopressa on rye bread)