by Nancy Dacey
courtesy of Dairyland, NY
This past July two of Dairylands top Monini users (restaurant
groups,) were asked to send a representative from one
of their restaurants on an Educational trip and to tour
Spoleto, Italy, and The Monini Manufacturing plant.
Fortunately because I represent Dairyland, as Brand
Manager of Monini, I was included and went along for
the adventure gladly.
Invited from The Tramp Rock Group in
New Jersey, was Chef Bruce Johnson from "3 West
Restaurant" in Basking Ridge, New Jersey and his
3 West has an impressive reputation for its "New
American Style" cuisine, and the restaurant décor
is characterized by warm shades and textures of brick,
copper and rich dark woods. The customers there dine
on Chef Johnson's fine creations while they bask in
the combined perfume of wood smoke, charred meat and
sizzling butter as it wafts from the open kitchen as
cool jazz emanates throughout.
From the Terra Group in Greenwich, Conn. was Chef
Robert Bognar of Mediterraneo, Rest. in Greenwich,
Mediterraneo's interior reflects the modern yachtsman's
dream, putting to imaginative use the rigging, decking,
hardware and materials found on board a 65- foot yacht.
The restaurant front is wrapped with a continuing band
of French doors and white canopies, flooding the restaurant
with natural light during the day. Chef Robert Bognar
has created dishes inspired by the countries bordering
the Mediterranean, such as our delicious Mediterraneo
fish salad, made with fresh shrimp, salmon, scallops,
calamari, clams, preserved lemon & mint and our
mouth-wateringWood roasted monkfish, served with middle
eastern cous cous, eggplant fondue and lobster mint
attending our educational travelling escapade were a
group of food writers from throughout the US and our
trip leader, Marco Petrini, Director of Monini
in North America. And with the group established
and enthusiastic we were on our way!
Upon arriving in Spoleto, we all marveled
at the beauty of the ancient city. Spoleto located in
Umbria, is only an hour and twenty minutes from Rome,
and one of the loveliest towns imaginable. The quaint
streets and moss covered stone stairs hint of Spoleto's
past. Spoleto was once a Latin colony that transformed
itself into a Roman community, which explains its diverse
architecture. If you love food, wine, visual arts, history
and the performing arts, Spoleto is the place for you.
We came to find out that Spoleto, which is nestled between
Marche and Tuscany, is simply overflowing with culinary
delights of the region. We were informed that Spoleto
offers numerous celebrations of different forms of art,
such as the Festival dei Due Mondi
(the Two Worlds Festival.) which is an annual spectacle
of international live music, dance, visual arts and
theatre, and is recognized all over the world.
Founded by the Umbrians in the
first century BC, Spoleto
went on to become a Roman colony in the third century.
It is a remarkably beautiful and ancient place surrounded
by green mountains and rolling hillsides. With a history
this rich, you can expect to see countless archaeological
finds and discover Roman ruins wherever your feet may
take you. Walking is the best way to explore Spoleto.
The historical town is so small that you often find
yourself weaving in and out of the same narrow cobbled
streets, sleepy piazzas, and gushing fountains. After
just a few days you feel like part of the community
where friendly faces offer you welcoming 'buon giorno'
and, as dusk falls, tranquil 'buona sera'. While traipsing
the streets of Spoleto, it is remarkable to see that
the elderly are a slim and able-bodied lot, making their
way, with ease, up and down the precipitous alleyways.
Their physiques must be, in large part, due to their
diets. Umbria is blessed with fertile soils, lush green
land and plenty of woodland, all giving way to a multitude
of local produce. A trip in the summertime offers peaches,
apricots, cherries, peppers, capers, olives, artichokes
and asparagus, to name but a few. The cuisine of Spoleto
is known for its simplicity.
A formal olive oil tasting was arranged
for us in the boardroom of Monini as well as a tour
of the plant. Although I have been working with Monini
for several years now and have learned a great deal
about their olive oil and production process, there
is really nothing like being there where all the magic
happens, and watching it all come together.
"In Italy, Monini is not
only the number one brand of extra virgin olive oil;
Monini is a family, a tradition and a fixture of the
best in Italian cuisine. The history of Monini
goes back nearly 100 years. At a time when most Italian
cooks used only pure olive oil, Zefferino Monini
Sr. focused exclusively on extra virgin oil.
The Umbrian climate and hills helped create an extra
virgin oil whose flavor was both intense and balanced.
Zefferino's business acumen and deep knowledge of olives
paid off. Within a few years, Monini olive oils were
known far outside of their home in Spoleto. Unlike
the majority of Italian olive oils sold in North America,
Monini uses only Italian grown olives. Olive
oil can be labeled as originating in the country in
which the oil was bottled, even if the oil is from another
country, but Monini oils capture the fresh essence
of 100% premium Italian-grown olives."
- Marco Petrini, President Monini USA.
One of my personal favorite highlights
of our trip included indulging in 5 course meals at
some of Monini's favorite restaurants in Spoleto where
the famous black summer truffle was shaved on just about
every dish we were served! For example, Tric Trac Restaurant
in the square, perfectly situated just across the cathedral
of Santa Maria Assunta, a beautiful relatively humble
Roman cathedral that was built in the latter part of
the twelfth century we were presented for our review
a full plate of summer black truffles! You simply do
not experience this kind of truffle splendor in the
Some guide books describe Spoletini
dishes as 'poor', though the idea of free flowing black
truffles as part of the poor man's cuisine seems more
like a fantasy come true to most of us. The fragrant
black-brown clump of fungus is often served as a first
course in dishes that are simple and modest. Restaurants
grate tartufo onto plain pasta with olive oil. Or as
in one dish we ate at Tric Trac restaurant, you can
watch it snow upon your risotto as they grate it tableside.
We also were priviledged to be taken
on a private tour of the Rocca di Fabbri,
Winery, located in Montefalco. This was an exciting
and informative tour.
This trip also coincided with the Spoleto
Carnival Festival, a festival of local artists and musicians.
The Spoleto festival was established in 1958 with the
aim of creating opportunities for European and American
cultures to meet. The wonderful celebration offers exhibits
and public performances of dance, opera, concerts, film
and art. The streets were open with the local artists
displaying their canvases and musicians performed in
the outdoor theater in front of the Basilica in the
Piazza del Duomo.
To sum it up we all had a marvelous
time in Spoleto learning more about Monini Extra Virgin
Olive, and soaking up the rich beauty, and culture of
the historic Italian gem of a town. The experience established
yet again how well fine food and fine art and architecture
go together. I arrived home with all of my senses revitalized
and an even greater appreciation for the quality of