A Visit to Gustiamo in NYC
New York City, the Big Apple, is enormous and has literally something for everyone. Some people go to the theater (I usually don’t). Some people go out to some great restaurants (I always do). For something unusual, my son and husband went to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Madison Square Garden while we were there recently (they both were wrestlers in school). Our whole family went to the new observatory at the top of the World Trade Center (impressive – you must do it). But perhaps the most off the beaten path thing I did on my last visit – and certainly one of the most fun – was a visit to the Bronx to see Gustiamo, an importer of artisan Italian food products.It all started last fall, when I had the pleasure of visiting Lorenzo at Pianogrillo outside of Ragusa in Sicily for an olive oil tasting. Through my limited Italian and his better English, we chatted about his family history in the olive oil business, and he was excited to share that Beatrice Ughi of Gustiamo imports his oil into the US. I knew that meant a visit was in my future, so I made time to head up to the Bronx on a sunny Saturday morning with my kids.When we arrived to the custom commissioned graffiti on the warehouse walls, I felt like this was an icon of a NY-Italian place – graffiti like you see in too many places all over Italy, but done by actual artists that are friends of the owner in the Bronx.And typical of Italian hospitality, Beatrice and her small staff greeted us warmly when we arrived. They had just gotten in the traditional colomba cakes (from the famous Podova baker Luigi Biasetto) for Easter, and we were treated to samples along with some fresh coffee (they actually import Sant’Eustachio from Rome!). So yummy, and so warm and welcoming.After a little sustenance, Danielle took us on a tour of the warehouse, where she passionately described products, producers, people, and places. The tour ended in the back where Gustiamo keeps a “shelf of horrors” to educate customers about fraudulent or low quality products: tomatoes from CA claiming to be San Marzano tomatoes (which by definition come from that region of Italy), olive oil with Italian iconic marketing images on the front but showing on the label that the oil may or may not even include any from Italy, and more. It’s enough to make you go home and clean out your pantry, which is what my son and his girlfriend did that afternoon!We were given a chance to shop, which we took advantage of, knowing that we could only fit limited things into our suitcases and would need to do the rest of our ordering online when we got home. If you are in the NY area, though, the warehouse is open to the public on Fridays. You are requested to purchase things by the case (go with a couple of friends and you can mix and match and share your purchases) and you’ll also get a 10% discount. You can find directions and all of the details here.At the end of our visit, the team had whipped up some Bloody Mary drinks using their Yellow Tomatoes from Passata Maida Farm in Campania and a tiny splash of Nettuno Colatura, an anchovy sauce from Campania that to me is like the Italian equivalent of Thai fish sauce. What a fun day, what a great group of people, and what a fabulous selection of products from Italy. If you are in NY, please go visit them. If you aren’t, but are reading this blog post, it’s your lucky day as Cooking with Michele fans can get 10% off their first order by clicking on the sidebar ad to the right. Let me know what you order!
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