Monday, December 9, 2013
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Italian cured meat products are on display at Micucci Grocery in Portland. The selection may grow as the U.S. Department of Agriculture relaxes an importation ban.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
There's so much regional variety in husbandry and production techniques in Italy, Skawinski said, that a slow food book that records all the different kinds of salumi is 400 pages long.
"People who are making salumi over there, a lot of them are families that have been doing this for 50, 60, 70, 100 years," he said. "I know that the guys we buy prosciutto from have about a 30 percent turnback rate on the legs of pork that they buy.
"So they accept only seven out of 10, at best. There's a very, very strict quality level with a lot of the good producers that they live or die by."
The opening of the markets couldn't come at a better time. Americans' tastes are changing, and they are becoming more adventurous eaters willing to try a greater variety of foods.
Micucci notes that eight to 10 years ago, few stores carried -- and few cooks used -- pancetta in Maine. Now it's everywhere.
Micucci's brother Rick, who owns the Micucci Grocery, has noticed a preference among his customers for the authentic Italian prosciutto that is already sold there over domestic varieties.
"It's different, and it's just a terrific product," he said. "We sell more of that than the domestic, even though it is about twice the price. We don't even sell the domestic mortadella anymore. We only sell mortadella from Italy because it was that much different.
"We do produce some pretty good salamis in this country," Rick Micucci added, "but I would love to see some from Italy."
Davenport said consumers are demanding better, more authentic products partly because of their exposure to them in their travels, through the media and popular culture.
She points to the huge popularity of Eataly, a bustling collection of Italian markets and restaurants in New York City, with a second U.S. location opening in Chicago this year.
"I feel like the world is becoming a smaller place," Davenport said. "People have traveled or watched cooking channels where people are traveling, and they're more curious and more willing to try products from other cultures."
Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: