As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Americans are learning not to take food for granted, especially food that comes from northern Italy’s Lombardia, Veneto and Emilia Romagna regions, which together account for 52% of the total production of Italy’s food sector.
We’re in great company in this article written by Garin Pirnia for HuffPost, with our friends importers Rolando Beramendi of Manicaretti and Alessandro Bellini of Viola Imports. And we all agree about the latest, extraordinary challenges that the food world is facing: let’s support the struggling farmers and food makers in Italy without the necessity of panic shopping or apocalyptic thoughts.
Is Italy’s crisis impeding shipments of our beloved pastas and balsamic vinegars? Not necessarily. Despite what continues in Italy and what is happening now in the U.S., we can take refuge in knowing that great Italian food will weather the COVID-19 maelstrom, and so far there are no signs of San Marzano tomato shortages, thanks to the hardworking and passionate Italian producers and their American-based importers.
Gustiamo is an independent importer and distributor of Italy’s best foods. This means that we put a fervent effort in selecting and visiting the farmers and food makers that are the backbone of the incredible heritage that is Italian gastronomy. And there’s only one way to do it: constantly traveling and experiencing.
Beatrice Ughi, founder of the Bronx-based Italian food import company Gustiamo and a native of Naples, Italy, got one last trip to her homeland at the end of February, before the world changed. “I arrived in Italy like it was nothing. In a couple of hours, the whole world collapsed on us,” she said. After spending a whole week in the country, including visiting producers in Sardinia, she had no choice but to abridge her trip and return to New York City the first weekend of March — though she said no one at customs asked her questions nor took her temperature.
Let’s get a little bit more specific on the meticulously oiled mechanism of Gustiamo Logistics, just to get an idea of what’s behind the scenes of every package of Italian ingredients delivered to your doors:
For Gustiamo, a truck transfers goods from a warehouse in Milan to the port, and a boat ferries the food to a Bronx warehouse. Ughi and a staff of 10 people manage accounts that include prominent restaurants across the U.S. Gustiamo also distributes to grocery stores and sells the products on the company’s website so the public can fill their pandemic pantries.
While we are doing our best to stock all the pandemic pantries, Beatrice makes a very clear point on what we all consider should be the right attitude:
“I can’t tell you how many orders we received from customers who stocked their pantries for four months compared to what they usually buy,” she said. “We have to be calm.” Ughi got reflective and said she thought the virus was revealing how short life is. “Your time is precious, therefore let’s spend it doing something with good food,” she said. “It’s showing me that when this is over, more people will have realized that food is important in the world — and they should take better care of themselves. We’ll get through this.”
Click here to read the full HuffPost’s article on How Italian food imports in the U.S. will be affected by coronavirus.