When I was five months pregnant with Zuzu, my husband and I went on a babymoon to Italy. We spent a few days in Rome, just the two of us, and then met up with my parents and my brother and future sister-in-law in Tuscany, where my parents had rented a house for a week. As you might imagine, it was a fabulous trip. We saw amazing art, architecture and beautiful countryside. But really, a trip to Italy is mostly about the food.
Being pregnant in Italy means not feeling guilty about stopping for gelato multiple times a day. Not that you should really feel guilty about that ever. My husband attempted to do the definitive study of all the caprese salads available in that part of Tuscany. And the neighborhood pizza place, which was called Da Roberto, had a Quattro Stagione pizza better that was better than anything served at fanciest Italian restaurants in Chicago.
One of the best things about renting a house in a place like Tuscany is having a kitchen to cook in. It allows you to shop at the farmers’ markets and bring home your treasures and put together a fabulous meal. Sure, we went out to eat plenty, but lunch was often a gorgeous spread of cured meats, cheeses, bread and tomatoes all purchased at local markets. My dad had a little joke that he repeated at least once a day for the whole week. “At home I only buy the imported prosciutto, but here I buy the domestic,” he would say, quite delighted with his witticism.
For years, American gourmands and food snobs would only buy the imported prosciutto and mortadella and salami. Real, artisanal Italian deli meats were only available from Italy, right? But happily, this is no longer true. These days you can buy “domestic” and still get the traditional Italian flavor and craftsmanship. I’m speaking, of course, about Creminelli Fine Meats. A foodie darling, Creminelli Fine Meats’ delicious salami and salumi are made entirely in the USA — in Salt Lake City, as a matter of fact, specifically chosen for the dry climate — under the watchful eye of master artisan Cristiano Creminelli, who emigrated to America from Italy for the sole purpose of bringing his family’s traditional cured meats to this market.
I had heard about Creminelli’s products from several food bloggers, including my friend Kate of Savour-Fare, who recommended Creminelli salami in her holiday gift guide. I wanted to try some desperately, but we have this pesky no-pork rule in our house. (To clarify, I eat pork; we just don’t have it in our home.) The first time I was able to actually try Creminelli salami for myself was at my parents’ house: I had sent my dad the Gourmet Artisan Salami Mix — which includes one salami with black truffles, one with Barolo red wine, and one wild boar salami — to help him get his strength back after surgery. Zuzu and I went to visit him a few weeks later and while the black truffle salami was long gone by that point — it was Dad’s favorite — there was still some of the wild boar left. I cut myself a few pieces, peeled back the rind and sampled the unique salty yet sweet flavor. Then I cut myself a few more pieces.
Creminelli has just introduced a new line of artisan deli meats, including proscuitto, mortadella, pancetta and new varieties of salami. In conjunction with the launch, Cristiano Creminelli himself came to Chicago to do some tastings. Adorable Edelman food PR gal, Jessi invited me to meet him and try the new products along with my friend Chef Druck, and several other Chicago food bloggers, including Kelly from The Pink Apron, Jenn from The Whole Kitchen, Courtney from Coco Cooks, Gina from Walk to the Mailbox and Diana from Beyond the Meal. It was a special evening, and not just because the meats were amazing. (My favorite? The Finocchiona Salami with fennel seed. But I also liked the Bresaola Piccola, which is dried beef eye of round, so maybe I can even bring some of it into my house.)
The real delight, however, was talking to Cristiano, whose passion for his work is undeniable. This man is a meat evangelist, folks, bringing Eurpoean artisanal cured meats to the Heartland. Halleluah! As Cristiano told us about the challenge of bringing his family’s traditional methods to America — it took a year just to find the farms that raised pigs in the manner Cristiano required: free-range and fed with organic grains and apples — we all put down our forks and listened, rapt. We knew that we were in the presence of a true artist and craftsman. I left the dinner thirsty — red wine and salami will do that — but inspired.
So, if you eat pork, go out and find some Creminelli salumi (salumi being the Italian word for deli meats) for your next lunch party. Or just treat yourself, so you can taste a true artisanal product, handmade with care and attention to detail in a centuries-old method. Creminelli products are sold in many Whole Foods, although oddly not in the Chicago-area Whole Foods. In Oak Park, you can find Creminelli salami at our own little Zingerman’s-substitute, the Marion Street Cheese Market. Or order directly from the Creminelli website. I guarantee that Cristiano will convert you.
I did not receive any promotional consideration from Creminelli or Edelman PR in exchange for this post. I attended a dinner where I tried Creminelli products free of charge. I was not asked to write about the products in any way. I paid in full for the Creminelli salami that I sent my dad, lest he think that I sent him a freebie.