Sunday, July 11, 2010

Antonio Pettinicchi: A Man Whose Ideals you can Taste

Fig.1. Some of the products Antonio Pettinicchi brings with him to Montreal--unadulterated, natural and healthy.

To say that Antonio Pettinicchi is passionate about the products he makes would be an understatement. Pettinicchi, who hails from the town of Lucito, located in the province of Campo basso, owns and operates a Azienda Agricola Biologica. Pettinicchi sells much of what his company makes here in the Montreal and outlying areas. Passata e polpa di pomodoro (pureed and chopped tomatoes), peperonata (pureed peppers), pate di olive (olive paste) and peperoncino macinato piccante (minced hot peppers, I’ve been buying these for years, they’re spicy but they also taste of peppers.) are just some of the wonderful products Pettinicchi and his wife Tina grow and make on their farm in the region of Molise.
I met Pettinicchi in his St Michel warehouse where he ranted about the problems within the business of food and extolled the virtues of growing food naturally and bottling without any preservatives. “Everything I make has an expiry date, and that’s how it should be” exclaims Pettinicchi when I asked him to explain the function of sulfites found in most vinegar products. “Sulfites will preserve the vinegar, but it’s also not good for you.” I tasted his wine vinegar—it was sharp and acidic but light and flavorful. Pettinicchi also has real balsamic vinegar from Modena. I’m talking the real stuff here, no caramel or sugar added, just oak-aged wine from trebbiano grapes. “Norman Laprise asked me years ago to get him good balsamic vinegar; he buys one that’s forty-five years old.” I unfortunately didn’t taste Toque’s! balsamic but Pettinicchi did let me sample a twenty-five year old that was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. The list of restaurants Pettinicchi sells to is indeed impressive; aside from Toque!, they include Laloux, Le Club Chasse et Peche, Decca 77, Newtown, and L’eau a la Bouche. (For a complete list click here.)
Pettinicchi was eager for me to sample some of his products, armed with a hand full of plastic spoons, Pettinicchi offered up preserved artichokes, hot peppers, rapini sotto aceto (rapini in vinegar), and a porcini and white truffle paste. Pettinicchi then brought out a large suitcase which contained several bottles of his olive oil. “My olives are picked one day and pressed the next, and I only press what the trees provide, if I sold containers of oil the oil wouldn’t be good.” Pettinicchi’s oil was indeed extraordinary and it should be pointed out that Pettinicchi uses his olive oil in all of his products—if you buy his preserved artichokes for example, you can then use the oil for cooking or dressing salads. But what really stood out for me was some of his flavored oils, namely, his lemon and garlic oil. Pettinicchi exuberantly explained that the pronounced flavors were a result of macerating the olives and the flavoring ingredients together: rather than chemical flavoring agents, or the common practice of letting lemons sit in oil on a supermarket shelf, Pettinicchi adds the lemons to the olives and everything is pressed together. Pettinicchi also boasted how his oil is filtered with natural cotton, the industrial standard uses pressed, bonded paper.
I’ve been buying Pettinicchi’s products for years; his pastas (which he does not make but buys from someone as fervent as he his) are made from Italian semolina flour only! No imported flour as is the case with all large pasta manufacturers. Pettinicchi’s products are available at Charcuterie Noel, Milano and Capital and many shops outside of Montreal—for a complete list click here.

Fig.2. Some of the olive oil Pettinicchi makes: Picked one day and pressed and bottled the next.

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