A Llandudno-based award-winning importer of Italian delicacies has joined forces with a Welsh centre of excellence.
Marcello Fiorita’s Districts of Italy company supplies Tuscan extra virgin olive oil along with other specialist foods from his homeland to top London delis and restaurants.
His pecorino cheese and Parma ham are now on sale at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, in the Conwy Valley.
Marcello is also to co-host a new series of Italian themed supper club evenings with Bodnant’s Cookery School manager Eira Roche.
Guests will learn how the different types of extra virgin oil from Marcello’s home region of Tuscany enhance the flavours of dishes and wines served up at the club, which began on May 15, with meetings every then on the third Friday of every month.
Marcello moved to North Wales with his wife Joanne and their sons, and set up Districts of Italy, which now supplies pecorino cheese and Parma ham to Bodnant, in the Conwy Valley.
The company has picked up two Great Taste Awards, with two stars for its Culatello di Zibello and one star for its Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus it was named Italian Gold winner in the Chocolate Awards of 2013 and European Gold winner in 2014.
The company offers products from Italian regions such as Maremma, with its pecorino cheese, the balsamic district of Modena and the chocolate district of Florence.
But it’s the olive oil producing region of Val d’Orcia on which Marcello will be focusing at Bodnant.
He said: “We’ll be looking at Tuscan olive oil and in particular extra virgin olive oil, which is the very best you can buy.
“I’ll also be explaining the difference between extra virgin oil from Tuscany and the sort which comes from other parts of Italy or countries such as Spain.
“The quality of the oil is all about the way the growers look after the trees, from the time the olives bloom and are picked to when they are crushed.
“One of the secrets of success is that the shorter the time between the picking and the crushing of the olives, the better the quality of the oil – and the further you move away from traditional olive production the more the product will suffer.
“The different types of olive oil – there are actually 200 of them – all have their own distinctive flavours and I will be offering people the chance to sample and compare them when used with different dishes.”
Bodnant’s Cookery School manager Eira Roche is well acquainted with the olive growing region of Tuscany. She said: “For two years until 2010, I ran the restaurant and cookery school on the La Foce estate in Val d’Orcia, cooking mainly for visiting holiday makers.
“As the estate also produced extra virgin olive oil, I’m very familiar with it.
“Once I was back home in North Wales and working at Bodnant I got to know Joanne, Marcello’s wife, as she was a regular at the cookery school and once brought along a bottle of the delicious extra virgin olive, which he imports from the same area.
“At the supper club evenings Marcello will be matching different types of olive oil to various traditional Italian dishes, such as fresh pasta, risotto and ribollita, a Tuscan soup made from bread and beans.
“There will be about five or six dishes served during the evenings, which start at 7pm, along with wines suggested by one of Bodnant’s resident wine experts.
“We’ll be using the food and wine to showcase the marvellous types of extra virgin olive oil, so the supper clubs promise to be very informative and a real treat.”
Districts of Italy now supplies specialist delis and restaurants, such as the well-known San Carlo chain with its branches in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Leicester and Bristol.
Marcello added: “I’m originally from Calabria in the south of Italy but I lived in the Florence area of Tuscany for about 20 years.
“When I finished at university I started working in sales and marketing for a friend of mine who had a company, which was developing a collection of traditional produce from Tuscany such as olive oil, ham, cheese and honey.
“I eventually became a sales manager for a company going direct to the producers for all kinds of Tuscan food.
“About 10 years ago, for family reasons, I decided to move to the UK with my wife Joanne and our two boys, who were then quite small but are now 14 and 13.
“This will be the first time I have led special events such as this and I am very much looking forward to passing on the knowledge of the product to the consumer, which I believe is so important to do.
“Of course, I’ll be telling our supper club guests that olive oil has been known since Roman times and beyond and is one of the most ancient forms of food we have.
“It is also quite mystical as it is used to anoint the heads of children when they are baptized.”
Bodnant Welsh Food is located in a building dating from the 18th century which has been lovingly restored and includes a farm shop, tea room, restaurant, wine cellar, cookery school and farmhouse accommodation.
The centre had its fanfare opening by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2012.
Bodnant Welsh Food Centre has its own dairy making cheese and ice cream, plus an on-site bakery and butchery, with award-winning pies. There’s also a wine cellar and tea rooms plus the Hayloft restaurant and farmhouse accommodation.
More details on how to book the Supper Club at http://www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk/event/italian-supper-club