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Cam: Where did the inspiration for Bottega DITALIA come from?
Vince: In Italy, a bottega is an artisans’ workshop where people produce handmade goods and learn their craft. I’ve always loved the idea of a bottega and thought it was the perfect name for a DITALIA line of products. Bottega DITALIA is all about artisanal tradition, products made with the best ingredients according to methods people have used for hundreds of years. It’s also about taking that tradition and creating something new and unexpected.
As for each product, I never know what will inspire me until I see it. Every once in a while I come across an item that I think is unique. These products will not be in every grocery store, but something that is sustained by tradition, a commitment to craftsmanship, and the love of those who make it.
Take our amaretti cookie crumble bark, for example. These chocolatiers I know approached me and said, “Hey, we’d love to work on something with you. What can you come up with?” We were able to use ingredients we had at DITALIA to dream up our own chocolate confection. It was the same thing with our chocolate-covered amarena cherries. Our little food community is full of these symbiotic relationships — a chocolatier wants to work with us? Perfect! We can give him our vision and create something of our own, using ingredients that we love.
Our wine vinegars are another example. When I went to Modena, I learned all about balsamic and wine vinegars: what they are, what they mean to the people who make them, but also unfortunately the fraud that threatens those traditions. I knew I’d found another great product to put our name on. I could oversee the whole process of making it, just like I was taught in Modena, and give it my stamp of approval. That way I’d know that when somebody used our vinegars, it’d really help their recipes shine.
It’s the same thing with our salsiccia, my family’s Sicilian-style sausage that I’ve been eating since I was a little kid. I just happened to have a friend, Sam Lovera, with a workshop he makes sausage out of. He was able to take our recipe, keep it as a guarded secret and make our sausage for us.
Cam: How do you form these relationships with the people who help you make your Bottega DITALIA creations?
Vince: My philosophy on business has to do a lot with my philosophy on life. Make yourself vulnerable to people, always put yourself out there, be transparent, be honest. Sure, you have to take some risks, but you end up making really good friends. Take Sam Lovera (of Lovera’s Market), for example. He was in a crunch one day trying to order some Salami from Volpi, and they told him to call us. He called me and we were able to get him a bunch of stuff. He became a really good customer and we became really good friends. He started coming to St. Louis every summer to watch baseball games, and before you know it, he’s staying at my house with his family and we’re talking about making this Bottega DITALIA sausage together. He really is like part of my family now.
When I go to Italy and the families that produce great food invite us into their homes, I realize they’re putting themselves out there too. You end up being able to spot the people who are being sincere — they approach it as “Let’s have a relationship first and then we can do business.”
Cam: Anything exciting on the horizon for Bottega DITALIA?
Vince: What has kept me excited is that people continue to enjoy our story, and it’s helping them to create their own. Bottega DITALIA is going to be a part of that. These products are unique and might inspire people to try something new and create their own recipes to share with family and friends. We’re continuing to expand the line and update our look to continue to serve. We’re helping people make celebrations.