By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
World-renowned truffle company Sabatino Tartufi is expanding its Front Avenue headquarters in West Haven’s thriving Allingtown business district, owner and CEO Federico Balestra and Mayor Nancy R. Rossi announced Oct. 30.
Balestra, whose family-owned business has been cultivating and distributing high-quality truffles for over a century, heralded the expansion with Rossi and her executive assistant, Louis P. Esposito Jr., inside the company’s global headquarters at 135 Front Ave.
Rossi said that thanks to Esposito, the world’s largest manufacturer, importer and distributor of fresh and preserved truffles is able to stay in West Haven and expand into space next to its existing plant.
According to Rossi, Esposito helped an adjacent business owner relocate to a more suitable site, allowing Balestra to buy the property to accommodate the company’s growth.
“I am thrilled that Sabatino Tartufi can stay and expand operations in West Haven,” Rossi said. “Lou Esposito has done a very good job working with both business owners to create a scenario where they can both be happy and successful.”
Also attending the morning announcement and plant tour were state Rep. Michael A. DiMassa, D-West Haven, and City Council members Mitchell L. Gallignano, D-4, Gary Donovan, D-at large, and Colleen O’Connor, R-at large.
Truffles, which grow beneath trees, are edible, potato-shaped fungi regarded as a delicacy, of which more than 200 species exist. Balestra’s “diamonds of the earth” are grown in Italy, Spain, France and Australia.
According to Balestra, the three-phase, 100,000-square-foot expansion will include new office space, loading and receiving docks, parking and an automated storage system to maximize space. The multimillion-dollar project is aimed at creating an expanded area for shipping and storage to free up the existing location for increased production, he said.
Balestra said the expansion, slated for construction on the adjacent parcel next year, is expected to create up to 25 jobs.
Balestra, who lives in Greenwich, 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.
Balestra told city and state officials that he likes West Haven because of its proximity to Interstate 95 and regional hubs.
“The location is fantastic,” he said. “It offers the right location next to I-95 and is not too far from New York City and Boston.”
Balestra continued: “It is easy to work with the city as well. They do their best to make projects like this work.”
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.
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 and distribution center, which serves North America and processes up to 35 tons of truffles yearly, Balestra said.
The company, which has 60 employees in West Haven and 140 worldwide, also has a manufacturing plant and distribution center in Umbria. The two centers export truffles to more than 70 nations, Balestra said.
Sabatino has offices in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami, as well as in Toronto, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
During a walk-through of Sabatino as part of an Allingtown business tour in October 2019, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz praised Balestra and his company for driving economic growth in West Haven and statewide, saying, “We love that you’re a global company in West Haven, Connecticut.”
Rossi, who led last year’s tour with DiMassa, also said at the time: “I’m very glad you chose West Haven. I couldn’t be happier.”