Buona Tavola owner opens wholesale salami business

Antonio Varia, the owner and chef of Buona Tavola restaurants in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, has started Allesina Fine Cured Meats: a wholesale salami business with a USDA-approved processing facility in Atascadero.

A native of Italy, Varia named the salami line in honor of his mother, Maria Pia Allesina, who died in 2010.

Varia has brought his family tradition of making salami each winter to the Central Coast, handmaking salami in the extra kitchen at his Paso Robles restaurant for his customers since 2005.

In October, he bought an 11,000-square-foot commercial complex at 8396 El Camino Real in Atascadero. For now, 1,000 square feet is dedicated to processing salami, with other tenants in the remainder.

Alex Pellini, Varia’s nephew, came over from Italy in 2009 to help in the restaurant and now oversees much of the salami production, which is 5,000 pounds per month.

The salami is hormone- and nitrate-free, created with ingredients from local suppliers such as the Spice Hunter and Kaney Meats.

The salami comes in four flavors, ranging from the lighter Cacciatorino featuring chianti wine from Italy and juniper berries to the spicy Sopressa salami with Paso Robles zinfandel wine and cayenne pepper.

Allesina can be found at New Frontiers market in San Luis Obispo, Nature’s Touch Nursery & Market in Templeton and San Luis Obispo Saturday farmers markets.

It is distributed to Fresno and Southern California, as well.

“I’m a chef. I want to keep an eye on it all. I wrap and deliver the salami myself as far as Orange County. I don’t want my salami sitting in a truck somewhere,” Varia said.

Varia moved to San Luis Obispo County in 1989 and opened Buona Tavola in 1992. The Paso Robles location opened in 2001.

After two months of wholesale business, Allesina Fine Cured Meats is breaking even and Varia is happy with the possibility for growth, he said.

He said his restaurant business was affected by the economy in 2009 and 2010, but this year has posted the best sales to date.

“I’m happy we are like a big family,” he said.