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Cured meats a 4th-generation family business

Oliviero Colmignoli stands in the drying room at Olli Salumeria near Richmond, Va. / AFR photo by Domenica Marchetti

It’s no surprise that Oliviero Colmignoli got into making salami and other cured meats. He is the fourth generation in a family of famous Italian salumi makers — great-grandson of Cesare Fiorucci, who founded Norcineria Fiorucci  in Umbria, in 1850.

What is surprising is the latest addition to the line of artisan salami that Colmignoli (Col-meen-YO-li) produces at Olli Salumeria, his small company near Richmond, Va., using pasture-raised pork and other carefully sourced ingredients.

It’s pepperoni. Yes, American-style pepperoni, the classic American pizza topper that doesn’t actually exist in Italy.

The word ‘pepperoni’ is a corruption of the Italian words peperoni, which means bell peppers, and peperoncini, which is the Italian word for hot peppers. Pepperoni is generally more finely ground than Italian salami. It has a smoky, spicy flavor that mimics those of salami from southern Italy, but is generally considered inferior in quality. Colmignoli aims to elevate it.

“I guess you could say it’s high-end pepperoni,” Colmignoli says. “It’s good pepperoni to put on good pizza and with all the artisan pizza restaurants, we thought, why not?”

Olli Salumeria started out making prosciutto. / AFR photo by Domenica Marchetti.

“We are an American company,” he adds. And, in fact, Olli Salumi’s tag line is, “slow-cured in Virginia.” 

Twisting on tradition has been part of Olli’s philosophy since Colmignoli and his business partner Charles “Chip” Vosmik, a local investor, launched the company in 2010. Colmignoli had been working at Fiorucci USA, the American arm of his family’s salumeria, in Colonial Heights, Va. He decided to branch out on his own after the company was sold to a private equity firm.

“I saw a need for high-quality products,” Colmignoli says. He was encouraged, he says, by the success of a handful of artisan salumi producers that had sprung up across the U.S., including La Quercia, in Norwalk, Iowa; Creminelli, in Salt Lake City; Boccalone, in San Francisco; and Salumi, in Seattle (owned by the father of celebrity chef Mario Batali).

Although Olli started out making prosciutto, it is the company’s line of salami that has become its bread and butter. In the three years since it opened, it has gone from processing 4,000 pounds of meat per week to 20,000, and salami accounts for 80 percent of its sales. (Most of the prosciutto and other whole cuts are sold to restaurants, though they sometimes can be found at specialty retailers.)

To make the salami, Colmignoli starts with pork shoulder from several heritage-breed farmers. The meat is ground and mixed with blended spices, and a starter culture is added to promote fermentation. The mixture is stuffed into cases and then cured for five weeks in temperature-controlled drying rooms imported from Parma, Italy. 

The company’s salami is its bread and butter. / AFR photo by Domenica Marchetti

One of the most distinctive characteristics of Olli’s salami is the casing. Instead of the usual natural beef casings, Olli uses hukki, a German-made collagen-coated mesh that Colmignoli says improves the fermentation and drying process and also is easier to peel. The cured sausages are then packaged in impermeable paper that prevents oxidization.

The line of salami started out with classic flavors, named for the cities or regions in Italy that inspired them: Norcino (mild); Napoli (smoked and spiked with wine); Calabrese (spicy); Molisana (pepper and garlic). Two more Italian varieties followed — Toscano (spiked with fennel pollen) and wild boar (made with Texas farm-raised boar).

Then came chorizo, the classic Spanish dry-cured sausage liberally seasoned with pimentón (smoked paprika). And, most recently, the pepperoni, which they take as seriously as all the other salami. (A truffle-spiked salami also is in the works.)

“It took or six or seven tries to get it right,” Colmignoli says of the pepperoni. The company is looking for ways to market it beyond restaurants, and is considering packaging it pre-sliced to appeal to home cooks. “We want to be able to give high-end quality to as many people as possible.”

Whether Olli continues to venture beyond traditional Italian salumi remains to be seen. But we did spy a clue while touring the facility a couple of weeks ago: a side of bacon curing in one of the drying rooms. “An experiment,” Colmignoli says. “We’ll see.”

 

 

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12 Responses to Cured meats a 4th-generation family business

  1. Ciao Chow Linda February 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    How great to see more families/companies making artisanal salumi like this. Another similar place is Biellese, which is even available to me here in Princeton at one of the shops. It’s just such a normal part of the meal whenever I visit my relatives and now it’s become a very chi-chi thing at so many restaurants in NYC too.

    • Avatar of Domenica Marchetti
      Domenica Marchetti February 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Linda, thank you for mentioning Biellese. I know there are others I didn’t mention in my story ~ which I guess is a good sign. We’ve come a long way from the “baloney” days, haven’t we? Thanks for reading.

  2. Keith Roberts February 22, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    Thanks for the great piece on our friends at Olli in Richmond! Next time you find yourselves in the area, I’d like to extend an invitation to S. Wallace Edwards & Sons in Surry, Virginia. We’re a 3rd generation owned and operated company that’s been producing traditional Dry Cured Hickory Smoked Country Hams, Bacon and Sausage for over 87 years.
    Using recipes and methods that date back to the original Jamestown Settlement, we’re bringing a true taste of American history to friends, foodies, and the finest restaurants across the country. Feel free to give me a call anytime with questions, and keep up the great work.., KR.

    • Avatar of Domenica Marchetti
      Domenica Marchetti February 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      Keith ~ many thanks for your comment and for your invitation. I’m familiar with your country hams and I’d love to take you up on your offer. In fact, it’s been on my to-do list for some time. I look forward to following up with you soon.

  3. I. Cardillo February 23, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Is your product sold in Michigan?

    • Avatar of Domenica Marchetti
      Domenica Marchetti February 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

      Hi, thanks for the question. I don’t know if Oll’s products have reached Michigan. I do believe some of their products are available online, and you can contact them through their website http://www.olli.com.

  4. carl February 24, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Disgusting! Stay tuned for karma!

  5. Avatar of Steve Webb
    Steve Webb February 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    Ooo, I’m hungry now. Thanks as always Domenica.

    As far as I’m concerned well cured meat is one of the greatest foods on the planet. Given my druthers I could quite happily live the rest of my days on salamis, cheeses, bread and red wine. Admittedly I might not last very long but it would be pretty fun. It’s amazing how such a small list of ingredients can be used to prepare something so deep in texture, flavor and experience. And it speaks volumes about the future, and indeed past, of curing meat in America. I remember having some locally sourced ham at Fiola here in DC recently and I was stunned by the quality of it, I wish I could remember what it was called. And, of course, it did have all the fat on it.

  6. Avatar of Andrew Marin
    Andrew Marin March 1, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    I’m not a huge fan of classic pepperoni, but this sounds absolutely delicious and like you can taste the care and effort put into it.

    • Avatar of Domenica Marchetti
      Domenica Marchetti March 2, 2013 at 8:38 am #

      You are absolutely right Andrew. I’m not big on pepperoni either, but this stuff is good. Who knows ~ maybe one day we’ll be seeing pepperoni-topped pizza in Naples?

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