Made in California, Italy

Maico Campilongo explains how he supplies his restaurant in Palo Alto with excellent Italian-American products

Maico Campilongo, right, with Apulian chef Krystia

Maico Campilongo, right, with Apulian chef Krystian D'Angelo. Together with Maico’s brother Franco, they are the ones behind the success story of restaurant-pizzeria Terún in Palo Alto, California

What can you do if you have an Italian restaurant in Palo Alto, California, and some foods such as salami from Calabria can’t be imported from Italy, for some obscure reasons? Or what can you do if you want a locally produced mozzarella in the States? Let’s start from an article from 2006 on the Los Angeles Times. It basically said: you probably have never heard of Vito Girardi, but perhaps you’ve swooned in front of his cheese. He’s the man who introduced burrata to America.

Vito Girardi with his Gioia Cheese introduced burrata to the American clients

Vito Girardi with his Gioia Cheese introduced burrata to the American clients

Today, therefore, we present an anecdote. It’s a common story of Italians living in the US. We’re in the Silicon Valley, in Palo Alto. We find three different yet connected people and companies. The first is Chefs' Warehouse, a firm selling food for restaurants. The second is called Gilberto Frosoni: he’s a trade consultant and works for Chefs' Warehouse. He’s Italian and soon to retire. The third is Terún, a restaurant-pizzeria in Palo Alto. I own it together with my brother Franco.

The triptych works marvellously: Chefs' Warehouse wants to sell all available products; Gilberto has every advantage in selling Chefs' Warehouse’s excellent products; restaurant-pizzeria Terun wants the best and would like everything it offers to be made in Italy. Sometimes, however, this really isn’t possible.

The Campilongo brothers with their parents in front of their restaurant in California

The Campilongo brothers with their parents in front of their restaurant in California

Today’s subject, therefore, is: how can you sell 'nduja from Calabria (please excuse my insisting on Calabria, but that’s where we Campilongo come from) in the US? How can you deal with the sometimes unacceptable time required for transport and serve a good buffalo milk mozzarella or a fiordilatte as fragrant as in Italy, despite being in California, thousands and thousands of kilometres away? There are things that cannot be imported to the US: yet they are an essential component of an Italian restaurant’s cooking!

The best solution is not to be satisfied with mediocre products. There’s a different way out: find someone who can make those products here, but well. For instance, there’s Gioia Cheese Company near Los Angeles, which has been producing fiordilatte mozzarella and burrata as fragrant as the Italian ones since 1994. It belongs to the Girardi family, originally from Bari, with a very long history in the business. Or we can move to Wisconsin, where they make an excellent ricotta. The company’s name: Grande Cheese.

The headquarters of Grande Cheese Company in Wisconsin

The headquarters of Grande Cheese Company in Wisconsin

In 2012 I happened to be with Kristyan D’Angelo not far from Los Angeles, in the local branch of the Avpn (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana). We were participating in an intensive three-day course that allowed us to receive the Avpn certificate for our Terún. I remember those three intense days: we repeated the protocols endless times, so as to be able to pull a perfect Neapolitan pizza out of the oven. We used locally produced ricotta and fiordilatte. That fiordilatte mozzarella got stuck in my mind: it is still the best I’ve ever had overseas. I made it myself, with my own hands.

So now, what I’m asking is, is this the possible answer? You tell me.


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