In Ghivizzano, near Lucca, Rolando Bellandi and his children run L’antica norcineria (The Ancient Butcher’s).
The name speaks for itself: in this angle of the Garfagnana region of Tuscany they’re masters of the art. The adjective antico, or ancient, is not just an expression: the origins of this business stretch back to the 1940s.
“We’ve just celebrated 75 years,” as Rolando says. “The story of the Antica Norcineria goes back to the immediate post-war period: people needed to be able to buy food products, quite simply, and my father and grandfather became wholesalers. They went to buy pork products like lardo and sausage and resold them.” One step at a time, market after market, traveling by bike or in a sidecar, Bruno and Elso Bellandi set about growing the business.
From traders to producers
Then, in 1970, the founder’s grandson Rolando entered the business. “I thought that selling other peoples’ products wasn’t enough any more; we needed to establish our identity with our products.” So an artisanal workshop was set up for the processing of pork, and the Bellandi family went from being traders to producers.
The choice on offer today is wide: lardo, sausage, soppressatta, bacon. Then there are two Slow Food Presidia: Garfagnana and Serchio Valley Bazzone Prosciutto and Garfagnana biroldo. The first, as Bellandi explains, “is a modern interpretation of the prosciutto of the past, those that where aged in sheds like by grandfather taught me.” The biroldo, on the other hand, is a blood sausage that’s made exclusively with the pig’s head, flavored with Tuscan spices like wild fennel. “These are flavors that have almost disappeared, but we’ve tried to recover them. I like to say that we propose an ancient product for a modern audience.”
Nourishing the soul
The foundation of it all is how the pigs are raised, Rolando continues: “We raise them semi-wild, more wild than semi.” That means they’re free to move and they have a high-quality diet. “We don’t give them any soy but spelled flour and chestnut flour from Carfagnana. We use local products. We’re doing something on a slightly larger scale that the farmers around here used to all do themselves, in their own homes.”
The goal is always the same: “We believe in food that doesn’t just fill the stomach, but nourishes the soul. We try to offer products that provide joy. One can be happy merely filling the stomach, but when eating has an emotional impact it’s something else entirely.”
From Salone del Gusto to the Quirinale
The antica norcineria has been participating at Salone del Gusto since 1998, when the Bazzone prosciutto and biroldo blood sausage were introduced to the world: “From our point of view, Slow Food has helped us to spread the word about these products and make this a profitable activity. Nowadays we’re selling to France and Russia, and we’ve even supplied the kitchen of the Quirinale, the seat of the Italian government! It happened a couple of years ago: we met the cooks who work in the Palace of the President of the Republic; he really liked the Bazzone prosciutto and ordered it. A great satisfaction.”
“But what’s even more important is what Slow Food and Terra Madre Salone del Gusto do at the educational and cultural level. They’ve taught consumers to distinguish between products of quality and their industrial imitations. Taking part in this year’s edition was an obvious choice, but we hope to be able to come to Turin against next time.”
by Marco Gritti, firstname.lastname@example.org