Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gastronomia Volpetti in Rome


It wouldn’t surprise me if Volpetti was the first of the gastronomie in Rome. It was one of the finest salumeria I had ever encountered and sold much more than pork products. Since gastronomia is a term that seems to be in more common use these days, I’m wondering if it’s a relatively recent description for fine food shops in Italy. My first encounter with the shop was over 20 years ago. I had read about it in a guidebook and wanted to see it. I walked out with a picnic lunch and much admiration for the selection and service. Claudio, the younger of the two Volpetti brothers had cornered me and insisted that I taste a good portion of what was on offer, so much in fact, it necessitated a later picnic than I had originally planned. Our language difficulty didn’t make much difference in that scenario, except for the fact that I wanted to show him my guidebook, so he could see where I learned about the shop he had helped Emilio to open in 1973. He thought I was making a present of it to him, while I thought he was taking it into the back room to make a photocopy of the article. He generously offered me a jar of preserved zucca in exchange. In the intervening years the shop has been listed in just about every Italian guidebook I have seen. I think Caludio’s sense of theater has helped them get the attention. What do I mean by that? Just take a look at the photos!

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These photos show Claudio using a straw hat as a prop to indicate that these are summer sausages. I should note that he suggested these shots after having given me permission to take photographs in the shop. I suspect he didn’t want me to miss anything. Emilio quietly went about his business, probably thinking we were both a bit eccentric. He had no idea I was on a mission to spread the word about Volpetti’s, his remarkable store, to people who may never even get to Italy. I was taking photos of the items on display in the windows the evening before taking the rest of the photos, and Claudio smiled while pointing to himself, as if to offer to pose. I’m still giggling over that. I would have gone in then, were it not for the crowd of patrons inside. I knew I could never get enough photos with so many people blocking the cases and counters. Furthermore, I would never intrude upon or interrupt business taking place. I had to come back at 8:30 a.m. to find fewer patrons!

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Claudio is pleased to be showing us the Pizza di Pasqua, a pecorino laden savory bread that is reserved for use around Easter. You just have to admire a man who loves his work and not accuse him of being a “ham”. After all he’s surrounded by pork products all day long. Many of the items in the store are made by the Volpetti brothers themselves because they are trained butchers from Norcia, a town renowned for its salumerie. They hand pick the rest of the artisanal food products from Italy, but also import some fine cheeses from France, England and several other E.U. countries. I applaud this wonderful store and think the merchandise speaks for itself. See what you think:

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Guanciale is the cured pig’s jowl that is used in making a true Roman Spaghetti Carbonara and it’s difficult to find outside of Italy.

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This item takes the idea one associates with “candy bar” to an entirely new level.

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The premade foods are perfect items to include in a picnic and this torte is a fine example of proprietorial production.

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Scottish and Irish smoked salmon made the cut and are included in the inventory, along with many other fish products.

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The cheese selection is extensive and competes well with the salumi for your attention; try several of each.

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Nduja is a unique, soft textured, hot salami from Calabria that is spread on bruschetta or used as a filling for peppers.

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Don’t miss the cookies and other pastry, or breads, or the side dishes available ready made for “porta via” to go.

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Via Marmorata, 47
Testaccio Rome