Tania Rizzardo, co-owner of Salumeria Il Tagliere in Caledon, has a vivid memory of her very first in-store demo nearly a decade ago. “It was at a high-end artisanal store in Toronto, our first retail client, and a woman who walked by our table made a snide remark about there being too much fat in our salami,” she says. “Then I saw her walk to the cooler and pick up some pre-packaged Genoa salami, and I thought, ‘I’m going to go talk to her. What have I got to lose?’”
The woman agreed to accompany Rizzardo back to her demo table, where she patiently explained the differences between the two products. “The salame in your hand has 17 ingredients; mine has five. Your salame has 2.2 grams more fat per serving. The meat is pink in colour because the fat is mushed into it during processing. And by the way, Genoa salami doesn’t exist in Genoa, Italy. It’s a kind of salami they invented here in Canada,” she says, repeating her words from that very day years ago.
Just like that, Il Tagliere had a new customer. And over the years, one conversation at a time, Tania and her husband Frank have slowly but steadily expanded the family business.
The growth of the company is part of a broader trend in Canada: more and more artisanal salumi have appeared on the market in the past few decades. Chef Gabriele Paganelli, a seminal figure in the industry’s growth, says there are a number of factors behind it. According to Paganelli, people travel more today than when he came to Canada in 1991. “They learn a lot more about food. Many have relatives in Europe, and when they go back to discover their origins they find foods we don’t have here in Canada,” he says.
It was this lack of availability that led Paganelli to start recreating some of the products from his home region of Emilia-Romagna when he opened his first restaurant back in the 1990s. “I was lucky because I grew up on a farm and we would slaughter and process 10 to15 pigs a year, so I was very familiar with the recipes. And there weren’t these kinds of salumi here in Toronto when I came, so it was an opportunity for me,” he says.
Now the chef and co-owner of Speducci Mercatto, Paganelli’s award-winning line of salumi are made from locally sourced meats like Mennonite-raised Ontario Berkshire pork and Paganelli’s own herd of wild boar that he raises in Simcoe County. “To make the proper salumi,” he says, “I needed to feed and slaughter the pig the way it’s supposed to be. So for example, the pigs normally used here in Canada are five-months-old and 150 pounds. But the pigs I use are 12 to 15-months-old and 440 pounds, like the ones back home in Ravenna.” Paganelli thinks that interest in this farm-to-table approach – a return to tradition – is another factor in the rise of artisanal salumi.
People want better tasting, healthier food and want to understand how it’s made. Increasingly, they’re concerned about the ecological effects of food production. At the same time, thanks to food shows and blogs, social media and culinary tourism, artisanal food production has become a popular form of entertainment. People want more than a meal – they’re looking for immersive, informative food experiences. Paganelli, who has conducted many culinary tours in Italy over the years, says that cooking classes and salumi-making demos are a growing part of Speducci’s business.
The Rizzardos, who have converted Tania’s parents’ farm into Il Tagliere’s state-of-the-art production facility, hope to one day convert the property into an Italian-style agriturismo. The couple lives on the farm with their nine children and raises water buffalo, cattle and chickens and also grows many of their own vegetables. “Our dream for the agriturismo would be to only serve things produced on our farm,” she says, such as cheese, yogurt, gelato and charcuterie boards. “We’d like our guests to be able to walk through our garden and pick their own vegetables and to be able to sit and enjoy their meal with the beautiful view of the rolling hills on our farm.”