You’ve no doubt tasted salami before, but the handcrafted Italian salumi from Alle-Pia Fine Cured Meats is a slice above the rest.
The name behind Alle-Pia is a familiar one to many county residents.
Antonio Varia opened his first Buona Tavola (“good table”) restaurant in San Luis Obispo in 1992, followed a decade later by a second location in Paso Robles.
Hailing from a family of chefs in the Piedmont region of Italy, Varia sought to bring not only the cuisine of his native country to local diners, but also the Old World traditions behind it: fresh, seasonal and made from scratch whenever possible.
Among the items Varia began making at the Paso location was Italian-style salami — aka salumi — because he “wanted a good product to serve in the restaurants.”
One link led to another, and with the help of nephew Alex Pellini, Varia launched Allesina Salami in May 2011. Since then, the company has been redubbed Alle-Pia in homage to Varia’s mother.
Apart from Buona Tavola and many other Central Coast restaurants (in a recent Tribune profile, chef Greg Holt from Big Sky Café explained how he serves the salumi), locals got their first tastes of the Alle-Pia products at the Saturday farmers markets in Templeton and San Luis Obispo.
While still available there, the salumi is also sold at several retail locations in the area, as well as throughout California and as far as New York and Florida.
Handcrafted batch by batch at a USDA-inspected production facility in Atascadero, the Alle-Pia products are air-cured using time-honored techniques, with no added nitrates or preservatives.
All the animals are raised on vegetarian diets with no hormones or antibiotics, and about 10 percent to 15 percent of the pork comes from Varia’s own pigs.
To make the salumi, the fresh — never frozen — meat is ground and mixed with spices (and often wine), then shaped, tied and hung in climate-controlled coolers until fully cured. Some of the products are aged up to two months, and all are inspected by Varia and/or Pellini before being released to market.
The Alle-Pia line started with four salumi flavors — all pork, as are most of the products. Sopressa is made with Zinfandel and cayenne pepper, cacciatorino has Chianti and juniper berries, barolo is infused with the Italian red wine varietal of the same name, and calabrese has red wine, cayenne and paprika.
Two new varieties have since joined the lineup as well: a traditional fennel-flavored finocchiona and a Salami al Tartufo made with black summer truffles.
In addition, six sausages are now available, ranging from the spicy luganega piccante to the cotechino, made with white wine, to the ruspante, chicken and turkey sausage with roasted bell peppers and orange zest.
To further tempt your taste buds, the Alle-Pia crew also cures three other products: a decadently creamy lardo, a rich pork belly known as pancetta tesa, and “salami in a jar” — their ’Nduja Spread, which is a chopped-up mixture of the sopressa salami, sun-dried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, red chili peppers and garlic.
Additionally, salumi-philes will be happy to learn that Alle-Pia is trotting out a salami club.
Office manager Carolyn Mason explained that “we’re still in the process of working out the logistics,” but it should be unveiled within the next couple of months.