After Wellocks visited Gino in Southern Italy, he came to Nelson to get to grips with our requirements – good quality produce direct from the grower.
The issue with Italian produce is the distance it has to travel and the fact that normally it goes via the Milan or Rome markets and then on to Rungis, France before it finds its way to the UK.
We have bypassed that system and we are now getting deliveries direct from the grower. This is allowing us to significantly up our game and what was once seen as produce reserved for the very top restaurants is becoming our standard offer.
Just compare the leafy unwaxed lemons to the new crop of Spanish Vernas, that have little juice or flavour; the Italian’s are in another league. It’s the same with the leafy unwaxed oranges; it has taken our citrus offering to a whole new level. It’s not just the taste or smell, but the amount of juice is outrageous and the leaf is no gimmick either as a quick rub between fingers releases an amazing smell. In the case of the lemon it takes me back to my childhood, eating sherbet but with a fresh oily texture. You are the chefs how will you use these?
There were issues to begin with as the lemons were too large and, as with all Italian produce, it is sold by the kilo; suddenly chefs were thinking these lemons were just too expensive. But with plenty of communication with Gino and the grower, we have overcome the issue and it’s only because we are so passionate about having the best product possible that we keep looking outside the box that other suppliers get trapped in. It is so easy to order Dutch produce on day one, for day two delivery; however this is very bog standard supermarket fare that looks OK, but with little flavour.
Our Italian truck is now rolling in twice a week with beautiful courgettes, fennel, cime di rapper, monks beard agretti, bunched white turnip, garden peas and broad beans along with three different raddichios, and now there is some amazing fruit; white and yellow peaches, Charantais melons and, last but not least, San marzanos and Camone tomatoes.