Direct From Italy
Good Mansion Wines is getting deeper into the imported Italian food business. In early May, owner Dominick Cerrone attended Italy’s largest food expo, Tuttofood, in Milan. The three-day gathering of over 3,000 food vendors occurs every other year and is one of the largest in the world, attracting thousands of importers, restaurateurs and brokers.
Good Mansion Wines already has been directly importing several items from Italy since the spring of 2014, which Cerrone believes complemented the store’s selection of imported wines, imported cheeses and salumi.
“Many in the wine industry visiting Wheeling note that our shop has one of the largest selections of Italian wines in the region,” Cerrone said. “We thought the food products directly imported from Italy would be the obvious partner for this selection of wine, and the combination has proved to be a huge draw from Pittsburgh to Columbus and beyond.”
According to Cerrone, the nine-year-old shop directly imports because of limited offerings in the American market.
“Our notion of Italian food in America is unfortunately very different from what Italians, as well as others throughout the world, seek for their Italian table. Most of what lands on the shelves as Italian food in many American grocery stores and even specialty shops are industrial products from Italy, of medium quality, with raw material sourced from all over the world, the result of a very centralized and corporate importing climate,” Cerrone said.
“The power of authentic Italian food is its place of origin and roots in traditional cuisine, and there is nothing particularly special about these products. It would be like having an American import shop in Italy filled with Kraft food products.”
In most cases, Good Mansion Wines works directly with an independent food consultant located in Rome to seek out small family-run companies that have gained notoriety in both the Italian and international food circles.
“These family companies are the backbone of much of the Italian food market, that in many cases have been in business for generations making particular, beloved foods of their local region,” Cerrone said.
“In many cases, the families even grow the food on their own land, and much of the work is done by hand. Some of the family businesses are so small that our consultant in Rome has assisted them in getting registered with the FDA, with Good Mansion Wines listed as their U.S. agent. In some cases, Wheeling is the port of entry for many of these Italian products entering the U.S. for the first time, even though they appear at Michelin three-star restaurants and some of the top food venues in Europe and Asia.”
With this advantage, Good Mansion Wines plans to also sell its offerings wholesale to regional restaurants and retailers starting in the fall.
Cerrone’s visit to Milan was preceded by a week of traveling up and down the peninsula to visit the farms and shops of many of the producers , understanding their philosophy and love of the foods they grow and produce , and learning about these products to be available in Wheeling this summer. The journey went from tomato farmers in the southern region of Puglia, to a truffle house and pasta producers in the Apennines of Le Marche in central Italy, to a balsamic vinegar house in Modena and to rice paddies at the foothill of the Alps in the Piedmont of northwest Italy.
Some new offerings that as a result of Cerrone’s recent efforts: whole baby white truffles, black truffle sauce, fusilli, penne, spaghetti, lemon cookies, parmigiano reggiano, pesto genevose, polente, risotto with saffron, capers in sea salt, orange marmalade and funghi porcini.