Ladies and gentlemen it’s Voices From The Fog! Welcome to the history of cured meat brought to you by Volpi Foods. Today we are changing gears a bit and focusing not on meat, but the people behind the meat. It’s also about this thing that human beings do naturally and do best. The United States is the strange, wonderful petri dish for this thing. The thing is leaving your home and the longing that comes from that and then creating it all again wherever you end up. It’s the way that your family, my family, every family really, has come from at least one iteration of that desire to leave home and create a new one.
It was the year 1900 and a young Italian named John Volpi left Milan to take the leap faith many were taking back then. He came to the United States. Finding himself in the Midwest, he was immediately greeted by something familiar (albeit smelly) — livestock. John Volpi saw the pigs and cattle and thought “Ah yes, this I know”.
John was a master salumiere — that’s a cured meat expert to you and me. He wasn’t going to settle and just be a butcher chopping boring old steaks and pork chops. John began recreating the well-spiced and expertly cured meats of his native Italy. The ties that Volpi kept to the homeland not only kept his Italian-American products traditional, but they also resulted in the emigration of his nephew — a little Italian boy named Armando Pesetas. What do you get when you mix a master salumiere and an apprentice? Two salumieri! It’s a boring joke because there’s no surprise, but what you get is a young man with a dream and a boat ticket teaching another young man with a dream and a boat ticket about the place they both left behind.
In 1957 after John Volpi passing, Armando takes over and keeps close contact with his family and the curing practices of his people. As the 70s and 80s roll by, the haircuts and clothes become sillier and the music louder, but Volpi’s cured meat remains unscathed by these fleeting fads. The Volpi company expands throughout the US and the globe.
Years later it’s 2002 and Armando, the former student, finds himself in the position of his mentor and passes the business to his daughter Lorenza pasady who is known as a technical maestro in the world of curing quality meat. It seems here that there’s this interwoven connection between the extremes of getting the hell away from where you came from, while also holding on for dear life to some kind of history. It’s the root of the bittersweet and the root of almost every great myth and story ever told. Lucky for us, at least in the Volpi case, it’s the root of really good food.