When Scottish-Italian food expert Marco Silvagni first met Naples-born celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo back in the early 2000s, it wasn’t long before the pair were cooking up a vision – of a better future, for Italian food, in Great Britain.
Marco’s passion for all things culinary had been honed and whetted during childhood summers spent with his grandparents in Grottaferrata, south of Rome - the heartland of food and wine in the region of Lazio. “On a Monday, my grandparents and aunties would head for the fruit and veg markets and come back with bags of produce,” he recalls. "The whole family would then gather together in the garden and transform the produce into food we could store in jars and bottles, meaning we had 'ready to eat' food all year round".
Marco tells us that there was a coming together of family and a sense of community in these occasions. “If tomatoes were in season, we would make our own passatas and I remember my brothers and I crushing grapes with our feet in big barrels. I was in my element!"
Wishing to bridge the gulf between their vision for Italian cuisine and its requisite ingredients in Britain, Marco and Gino founded Bontà Italia in 2003. Having built an exceptional reputation within the food industry, the duo decided to create their own speciality food brand. Casalinga is a venture that seeks to unite the worlds of traditional cooking with modern convenience, and is the latest chapter in their extraordinary narrative.
Casalinga was launched to cater for a spike in consumer demand for Italian speciality retail products and evolved out of a desire to fundamentally change the food industry for the better. “Big corporations are driving down quality in their pursuit of cheaper food products,” Marco says. “They’re showing no responsibility at all when it comes to what is brought into the food chain, and this includes food going into our children’s schools and into hospitals.”
Crucially, there are no bells and whistles to Marco and Gino’s vision for Casalinga’s role as an antidote to this. “What I always point out to my team is, in Italy, even the poorest eat well,” he explains. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can feed a family of five with a kilo of pasta - and make it tasty. The thing you need to do is let the ingredients do the talking.
“Buying olives that are marinated in lemon, garlic or olive oil is absolutely fine, however a good olive tastes perfectly good without adding anything. Often they are hiding the real flavour. In Italy, tomatoes taste of tomatoes. You can savour every single component of the dish because it's not covered in dressings or sauces".
Hence, the pair’s decision to bring authentic Italian culinary experience, traditionally passed down from their grandparents, to British tables.
Key to this, according to Marco, is a relationship with suppliers based on mutual respect and impeccable quality. “The way we source means that the product is as fresh as possible, with no preservatives, no additives, and gives the customer a great experience,” he says.
And, of course, the pair’s passion is hereditary: derived directly from that which drove their forebears to make Italian cuisine the most celebrated in the world.
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