La cucina l’italiana is rooted in the land.
My food-loving friends in Italy may live in towns or cities, but they all ‘know someone’ in the country. Someone like il cugino who cultivates olives and shares the olio with family. Someone like lo zio who preserves his sweet garden tomatoes and always has too many. Someone like l’amica who prepares divine apricot marmellata and loves to spread the sweetness.
Phil Noto knows someone: his cugino, Giuseppe “Pippo” Calantoni. Pippo lives in Motta d’Affermo, Sicily, in the province of Messina, in the house where Phil’s father was born in 1924. Pippo raises olives. He shares the olio with Phil and Phil is sharing the olio with us. Phil is a partner in Santisi Imports, a wholesale and retail Italian specialty food purveyor based in an office complex in Easton, Pa., about 100 miles west of NYC.
Like any self-respecting buongustaio, Phil not only knows where the olives are grown and the oil is pressed; he also knows the varieties of olives– Sant’Agatese, biancolilla, and nocellara Messinese.
This level of authenticity extends to all the products offered by Santisi. Phil began the business in his garage in 2005 with olio and origano but now has dozens of products that boast as genuine a pedigree as the oil. Phil and partners Vince Sciascia and Mario Vicidomini scour the Italian peninsula to secure the best of the best: aceto balsamico, dreamy pistachio spread, saba, canned cherry tomatoes that melt in the skillet, assorted condimenti, and colatura d’alici (the ‘secret’ seasoning of so many Italian dishes).
As for dried pasta, partner Mario happens to be co-owner of one of the oldest, most-respected pasta makers in Italy. Mario and his brother Luigi are the fifth generation of Pastificio Vicidomini to carry on the family tradition (Luigi’s son is the sixth generation). Situated in Castel San Giorgio, Campania, the pastificio has been featured on Italian television‘s Linea Verde and is the darling of chefs and food critics.
The Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C., serves Vicidomini pasta. Faith Willinger, Italian food authority and author of Adventures of an Italian Food Lover, says, “I love Mario’s pasta, which, like my other favorites from Campania, has an al dente-ness unlike most commercial industrial pasta.”
Arthur Schwartz, author of Naples at Table, calls it “excellent artisan-level pasta.” The reasons the pasta is fine are myriad. It is made with semolina flour from wheat grown near Altamura, Puglia, an area with a long tradition of Italian milling. It is combined with mountain spring water in a corkscrew mixer. The paste is extruded through rough bronze dies (as opposed to cheaper Teflon) that give the pieces texture so that sauce clings to it instead of sliding off. The pasta is dried slowly in temperature and humidity-controlled rooms, not quickly in ovens. Think ‘time is money’ and you’ll understand why artisanal pasta costs more than mass-produced factory noodles.
If this food talk is making you salivate, you can shop Santisi online. But it’s much more fun to get in your car drive to the Santisi showroom (constructed by Frank Oieni, another partner in the business) and belly up to the granite tasting bar. Phil, Vince, or Mario will be there offering samples of their wares. You’ll taste the pride in every bite.
601 Stones Crossing Rd,
Easton, PA 18045