A local salami-making venture by Buona Tavola restaurant owner and chef Antonio Varia will triple its production capacity this month.
The Atascadero-based Alle-Pia Inc., a corporation Varia heads with his nephew, Alex Pellini, recently installed new temperature-control equipment to help meet demand for the specialty cured meats locally and regionally.
“I never have enough,” Varia said. “By expanding, we can sell more salami.”
While Alle-Pia declined to disclose the company’s annual sales and profits, Varia said it hasn’t been profitable yet because it wasn’t producing enough meat. That’s partly because Alle-Pia’s specialty salami takes longer to dry than mass-market meats — up to a month and a half as opposed to the typical 20-day dry time of others, Varia said.
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The 2,000-square-foot operations facility, which isn’t open to the public, will go from producing about 3,000 pounds of salami per month to 12,000 to 14,000 pounds per month.
The company spent about $200,000 on the new equipment, which was shipped from Modena in northern Italy, Varia said.
Alle-Pia has three employees and will likely hire two additional staffers during the holidays for increased orders.
While Varia originally began making salami for his restaurants in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, demand grew for the meats outside his eateries.
The company has three distributors in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, each with their own regions covering eateries and shops from Washington to San Diego and around Texas. Locally, it continues to sell at farmers markets and restaurants. New Frontiers Natural Marketplace in San Luis Obispo is Alle-Pia’s largest local customer, accounting for about 80 to 100 pounds every other week, Varia said.
National gourmet food and cookware retailer Williams-Sonoma also sold about 2,000 pounds of salami during last year’s holiday season.
Varia goes for the all-natural approach, curing the meats without additives, chemical nitrates or artificial preservatives. He uses spices from the Paso Robles business Spice of Life. A longer drying process also means less of a greasy texture and an enhanced flavor, Varia said. The pork comes from crate-free, vegetarian-fed pigs in Iowa, as well as pigs raised on his ranch in Creston; his pigs account for about 10 percent to 15 percent of the salami stock. He recently added his own goats to the ranch for a new goat salami variety called Salame di Capra.
Varia also plans to make more pancetta, an Italian-style cured meat similar to bacon but without the high salt content and smoking process.