By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and Mayor Nancy R. Rossi talked shop with a pair of prominent Italian business owners as part of a business tour of the city’s Allingtown section Oct. 17.
Bysiewicz and Rossi, who were also joined by state Rep. Michael A. DiMassa, D-West Haven, visited Durante’s Pasta Inc. at 78 Fenwick St. in the morning and later toured the global headquarters of truffle-maker Sabatino Tartufi at 135 Front Ave.
With both businesses in full swing, the three officials chatted with Durante’s owner Angelo Durante and Sabatino Tartufi CEO Federico Balestra about the importance of businesses — large and small — in Connecticut and how they are driving economic growth statewide, including in West Haven.
“We love that you’re a global company in West Haven, Connecticut,” Bysiewicz told Balestra, whose family-owned business has been cultivating and distributing high-quality truffles for more than a century.
Rossi added: “I’m very glad you chose West Haven. I couldn’t be happier.”
Balestra, of Greenwich, whose company is the largest manufacturer, importer and distributor of fresh and preserved truffles worldwide, relocated his plant from the Bronx, New York, to West Haven in 2012.
The 60,000-square-foot site on Front Avenue, formerly Matlaw’s Food Products Inc., was redesigned to accommodate Italian-made machines and the largest kitchen in the U.S. to taste truffle honey and truffle butter.
Truffles, which grow beneath trees, are edible, potato-shaped fungi regarded as a delicacy. Balestra’s “diamonds of the earth” are grown in Italy, Spain, France and Australia.
During their walk-through of Sabatino, Bysiewicz, Rossi and DiMassa learned about all things truffle from Balestra and Culinary Vice President Steven Capodicasa, who noted that more than 200 species of truffles exist.
“The blend of our modern technologies and traditional recipes creates the ultimate truffle experience,” Balestra said.
The three officials toured the plant’s facility for filling, capping and labeling truffle oil bottles, along with special rooms for canning, pasteurizing, storing and shipping products.
Sabatino Tartufi was established in 1911 by Balestra’s grandparents, Sabatino and Giuseppina Balestra, in Umbria, Italy, where they opened their first store and started distributing baked goods, olive oil and vinegar.
Sabatino President Virgil Fisher said the third-generation company makes over 270 configurations of truffle products, including oils, seasonings, sauces, spreads, syrups and vinegars, at its Front Avenue production site, which serves North America.
The company has 39 employees in West Haven and also has a manufacturing plant in Umbria.
Sabatino has offices in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami, as well as in Toronto, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Durante’s, at the corner of Fenwick and Yates streets, specializes in a variety of home-style, fresh pastas, including fettucine, cavatelli, tortellini, gnocchi, ravioli, manicotti and shells.
The mom and pop operation was founded in 1985 by Durante’s parents, Amedeo and Carmelina Durante, who hail from Derby.
Durante, of Cheshire, told Bysiewicz, Rossi and DiMassa during their visit that he has tripled the pasta company’s distribution since taking over the family business 10 years ago, which now has eight employees.
Durante’s gourmet pasta products are made on the premises with time-honored family recipes and sold in the expanded front market. They are also available at select grocery stores and Italian restaurants across the state, including Biagetti’s in West Haven and Consiglio’s and Tarry Lodge in New Haven.
Durante, who has been making pasta since he was 4 years old, showed the three officials his arsenal of pasta-makers, including a century-old machine from Genoa, Italy, that sheets dough and a processor that extrudes dough to the shape of rigatoni.
He also showed them a temperature-controlled room for drying pasta, a 150-pound kettle for cooking marinara sauce and a room for storing shelves of dried pasta.
The tour culminated with Durante showing his 3-year-old front market, which displays his company’s pasta and Italian food products, including jarred sauces and olive oils, and features a deli and seating area.
Durante said the old corner market that longtime patrons perhaps remember is now used for storing flour and other ingredients.
Angelo Durante, owner of Durante’s Pasta Inc. at 78 Fenwick St., uses a processor to extrude pasta dough to the shape of rigatoni as Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz look on. The family-owned business was the first stop for Bysiewicz and Rossi on their business tour of Allingtown on Oct. 17.