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For the Love of Salumi

Published on: April 14th, 2010

When I left Denver on Saturday morning, the first thing I did was phone my editor. “You should be really jealous of me right now,” I said. “Why’s that?” “Because I know you love prosciutto, and I’ve just had some of the best I’ve ever tasted.”

She laughed, but it was no more than the truth. I had just left Il Mondo Vecchio and could still taste the salty tinge of prosciutto on my lips.

Il Mondo Vecchio in Denver is the first and only USDA-approved retail and wholesale producer of dry-cured salumi in Colorado. Starting with locally raised meats, sea salt from Utah and a compendium of family recipes, the three partners of Il Mondo Vecchio, Mark DeNittis, Adam DeSacco and Gennaro DeSantis, produce artisanal salumi like nothing you’ve ever tasted. Because they start with the purest products, they don’t want to taint the flavors, so the salumi from Il Mondo Vecchio has the lowest salt levels allowed by the USDA and never any nitrates or nitrites. The result? Some of the finest dry-cured meats ever produced outside the attics and basements of the old country.
And because they now have their own production facility, these gentlemen are producing varieties that no one else is even trying. Think duck breast prosciutto; think veal pancetta; and for a truly Colorado twist, think salambi—pancetta, salami, longanzia all made with Colorado lamb.

Surely due in part to the quality of ingredients and level of care that goes into each product, these meats absolutely resonate with flavor. Each bite takes you on a 20- to 30-second flavor ride, highlighting the coexisting simplicity and complexity of the recipes. Mark DeNettis and his partner Gennaro DeSantis treated me to a vertical tasting at their facility. It started with the beautifully simple saucisse sec, a French sausage made only with pork and salt, through a calabrese style vino e pepe nero to a pepperoni unlike anything I had ever even dreamed of on a pizza. Finally, I was stunned and delighted as I popped a piece of Chinese sausage into my mouth, and DeNittis could tell me exactly which flavors I was experiencing, from sweet to gingery spice to pepper heat, simply by counting the seconds.

The whole muscle products Il Mondo Vecchio produces are in a whole other world. These cover the sinfully rich and delicious duck breast and veal prosciuttos I was bragging about, the beef bresaola, guancie baciate (dry cured pork jowels) and veal pancetta—as well as the range of lamb products the team is developing.
It’s easy to see that these entrepreneurs could be on the cusp of a delicious trend. Restaurants like Ponzano in Denver are already featuring this salumi on their menus, and big players like the Canyon Ranch Spa resorts and others are commissioning private label recipes specifically for their dining rooms. The possibilities are endless—and endlessly delicious. This is one trend any carnivore won’t want to miss.

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