In the ever-changing food landscape, with modern fusions and concepts constantly fighting for attention, sometimes it behoves us to remember that the ingredient is king. If you ever need to be reminded of this then look no further than Italian food – cuisine supremely ingredient led, and yet arguably bastardised most heavily by consumerist culture, tomato sauce reduced to a smiling Italian puppet, and pasta to something that comes out of a yellow tin.
Into the arena steps originàrio, a company with its feet planted firmly in Italy, but with aspirations to bring true Italian flavours to the outside world. The company sells through “boxes” geared around particular themes, such as a season, a picnic, a dinner party, each providing everything you need along with instructions for your chosen meal.
Speaking to founder Sissi Semprini at a dinner on Tuesday (that took us through a range of the products originàrio have on offer), it is clear that the company is not interested in bringing you “good” pasta, or “good” anchovies; they want to bring you the best pasta, the best anchovies, the best olive oil. And if that means tracking down one farmer who grows olives in the shadow of Mount Etna, so be it. The stories of these producers form an integral part of the brand’s identity, with a real commitment to small artisans being at the heart of what the company stands for.
An array of antipasti dishes are on the one hand strangely familiar and yet in reality couldn’t be more different from their common counterparts if they tried. A bowl of capers, usually abrasive and overly salted, are refined with a depth of flavour that makes them unrecognisable. Trout Speck, which has been allowed to mature slowly for a full 18 months, only then lightly smoked and marinated in organic herbs, is served finely sliced and is aromatic and full of flavour.
Unsure of the best way to devour anchovies that have been salted by hand and submerged in extra virgin olive oil, we are quickly rescued by Luca Leone Zampa, the company’s chef, who places one onto a light, crisp cracker made with 20% potato starch spread with a little butter and instructs us it should be eaten whole: a stunning mouthful of food.
The highlight of the evening is the range of pasta dishes, using heritage grain varieties that have not undergone hybridisation or genetic crosses. It is not easy to grow grains like these, it is not especially economically viable to grow grains like these, and it is not easy to make pasta with grains like these, but that is not the point for a company that prides itself on flavour and quality above all else. What is important is that it produces a pasta that is totally unique, totally delicious and totally surprising. So often just a vehicle for other flavours, here the pastas on offer are masterclasses in taste and the merits of craft and dedication in food production.
With an unquestionable passion for what they are doing, and a selection of products to match, originàrio are offering a truly authentic taste of Italian artisanship. Every member of the team enthuses a genuine commitment to the products they have chosen to assemble for us, and they are eager to share the reasons why they have made the cut.
Brought together by originàrio, these products that would be virtually impossible to track down on your own would undoubtedly bring luxury, pleasure and an authentic taste of Italy to any meal.
This review originally appeared at http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2016/05/18/originario-launch-brings-authentic-italian-flavours-to-food-and-wine-lovers/