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Friday
Mar312017

Piazza Italia: Taste authentic foods from Italy at Kings supermarkets

Piazza Italia food purveyors represent Italy with style, suited up beneath their aprons for the Short Hills opening of the 8-day Italian foods tasting event at 12 Kings supermarkets. (Photos by Kimberly L. Jackson)Piazza Italia, an 8-day event that brings foods and goods from Italy to 12 New Jersey Kings supermarkets,  opened today at Kings in Short Hills with music, folk dancers, a flash mob of opera singers and delicious bites of foods from several regions of Italy.

The Italian marketplace was already set up at Kings in Garwood, where the event moves tomorrow, April 1. Tastings go from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the store, with live Italian music at 2 p.m. The event moves to various Kings stores through April 9. There will be other Piazza Italia events at the Short Hills store from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 6. See the full event schedule at KingsFoodMarkets.com/Italian

For the event's Short Hills opening ceremony, Francesco Genuardi, the Consul General of Italy in New York joined Judy Spires, Kings chairman and chief executive officer, and Cecilia Ercolino, owner of Italian Products USA, the Elizabeth-based food import company behind the event. 

Genuardi called Italy a "superpower for food," noting that ItaTop, Cecilia Ercolino, owner of Italian Products USA, demonstrates hands-on leadership in setting up products for the Piazza Italia at Kings in Short Hills. Above left, Judy Spires, Kings chairman and CEO. Right, Italian Consul General Francesco Genuardi. lian products are often imitated and that the Piazza Italia showcase will give shoppers a chance to sample authentic Italian foods made by small artisan purveyors, often family-owned companies. 

Yes, that means pasta (Apulia), prosciutto (San Daniele) and pesto (Liguria), but also much more. Spires described the event as an "eating extravaganza" where Kings customers will have an opportunity to explore new artisanal foods and flavors. "Our customers travel to Europe, they know all these things, but they don't have to jump across the pond to try these products."

Ercolino, a New Jersey resident, has been importing Italian foods for more than a decade to supply big-name food service distributors such as Chefs' Warehouse and Sysco, and retailers such as Dean & DeLuca, Whole Foods, and Di Palo's and Zabar’s in Manhattan.

 

She has been working with Kings for a little more than two years to increase the supermarket chain's assortment of artisanal Italian foods. Kings also carries private label pasta, gelato and other store-branded products from Italy.

 

Italian Products USA, formerly based in Clark, imports handmade egg pastas, yellow or red Datterino tomatoes, award-winning balsamic vinegar, Nocellara olives, olive oil, coffee, truffles and other products.

 

"People want better, they want authentic, and that's what we are trying to deliver," Ercolino said.

 

Piazza Italia will allow Kings shoppers an opportunity to meet some of the people behind these foods,  Ercolino said. And for the purveyors of the approximately 75 featured products, some of whom are traveling to the U.S. for the first time, the event represents and opportunity to "make their American dream come true," she said.

The foods featured at the event won't necessarily become permanent offerings in Kings stores. Buyers will be evaluating how the products sell over the 8-day event to possibly make room for the best sellers.

Tarallini, a petite version of the Italian taralli snacks, are priced well at $2.99 for an 8.1-ounce bag. These looped treats from Puglia are like a cross between breadsticks and a savory cookie. Try the Chocolate taralli is a favorite taste from Piazza Italia, an Italian foods showcase at Kings stores through April 9."Classico" before you fall for the sweet chocolate variety, called Chocoralli. Tarallini also come in onion, fennel and other flavors.

On the high-end, but worth it, are Fragola Fabbri wild strawberries or cherries in syrup. From Emilia Romagna, the fruits are simmered for days in their own sweetened juices, cooking in large copper vats to produce the syrup. They come in heavy ceramic jars with decorative printing. These are made for reuse. The cherries are $19.99 for the 21-ounce container. Delicious, but I say spend the extra $5 and go for the strawberries, as their flavor is incomparable. Good enough to savor just one, as the brand representative noted.

Alicos organic sauces from Sicily have the clean, yet rich flavor of a sauce made of the freshest vine-ripened tomatoes. They are not pumped up with spices and have the taste of a simple recipe that allows the highest quality ingredients to shine.

Wild strawberries or cherries in syrup from Fragola Fabbri, since 1905.Also, seek out the Marabissi panforte from Siena. These offer an innovative spin on the classic Italian dessert paste of candied and dried fruit, nuts, honey and spices. Panforte is said to date back to the Middle Ages. This gourmet take is delightful with cheese, earning appreciative comments from several customers who were introduced to it that way. Marabissi panforte is also suggested for dicing into salads. The company also is offering two flavors of biscotti for sampling. 

On opening day, some shoppers were surprised by costumed dancers leaping and twirling near the cheese cooler and a prepared food bar. The dancing was to southern Italian folk music by Alessandra Belloni. Most shoppers were good natured, enjoying the show. Some even joined the dance near the end of the performance. Belloni will perform again at 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 4 at the Verona store.

For those who missed the operatic flash mob, the singers will make a 2:30 p.m. appearance Sunday, April 2 at the Hillsdale Kings store. Morristown customers will have an opportunity to meet James Beard Award-winning cookbook author  Julia della Croce at 6 p.m. on April 3.Dancers perform to music by Alessandra Belloni for the March 31 opening of Piazza Italia at Kings in Short Hills. (Kimberly L. Jackson)

 

 

 

 

 

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