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Canada’s 150th – Passion for Prosciutto

Celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday with heartwarming stories from our family of suppliers who chose to make Canada home.
By Theresa Taylor

Canada’s 150th – Passion for Prosciutto

Celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday with heartwarming stories from our family of suppliers who chose to make Canada home.

By Theresa Taylor

Canada’s 150th – Passion for Prosciutto

There was a time (not so long ago) in Canada, when baloney and ham were some of the most exotic cold-cuts you could get from the deli.

As Paolo Macchi, owner of Macchi Inc., explains, many European types of meat were not importable to Canada until the 1990s.

While Canucks could source some exceptional deli fare from the U.S.A., most of us had to settle for the basics regarding selection. Which is a problem, when you come from a passionate Italian family who know the difference between their Prosciutto de Parma and honey ham.

“Italian immigration came in waves, one each decade from the 1950s to the ’90s. But it was so much more robust here in Montreal than out West; we had the demand of all of these people immigrating to Canada from Europe. They wanted a taste of home, but the closest they had was the products coming out of the US,” explains Paolo, whose father immigrated to Canada from Italy in 1952 and started a prosperous fine-deli meats importing business, that shipped between Pennsylvania and Montreal.

Paolo Macchi. Photo credit: Riccardo Cellere

Growing up a first-generation Canadian in Montreal with Italian and Latvian heritage (Paolo’s mother, also immigrant, is from Riga) Paolo describes his family table full of traditional European dishes; such as polenta, fresh salads, home-canned tomatoes, and veggies as well as homemade sausages and cured meats.

Domenico Macchi, with one of his four trucks.

“My mom married an Italian man, so make no mistake–she had to learn to cook Italian food,” Paolo laughs. “We grew up with stewed beans, plenty of homemade dishes. For us, food was not just about eating. I can remember shelling the Romano beans myself, canning our tomatoes…

Food was always about coming together as a family and making something. Then eating together, around a table. Food is about arguing together, drinking together, being together!”

As a child and teen, Paolo watched his father successfully build a company, bringing in more and more distributors from across the U.S.

“At one time he had four trucks on the road and he was a very successful,” explains Paolo, who together with his wife, took over and expanded the family legacy (2000) into Macchi Inc., a company that imports refined Italian food products and distributes Canada-wide.

“For me, it’s always been a passion. When you work as an importer, you don’t just bring in food to the country to make money. You have a responsibility to bring the best quality foods you can for people,” Paolo smiles.

Domenico & Paolo Macchi

Rino Arnone

Another family run company bringing the taste of Italy to Canadians is Marini Foods out of Toronto.

Co-owner Rino Arnone’s father Alfredo, hailed from Calabria, Italy. Like all good Italian families, they grew up making their own sauces, sausages and other traditional fare.

“To this day, when my friends and family come over, I tend to slice up some dry-cured cacciatore mild and hot, along with some cheese and bread. My wife does all the cooking … she’ll cook up pasta, chicken breast, etc. I’ve been trying to cut back on carbs to curb my waistline for the last little while!” says Rino.

 

“The perfect party platter has to have some Rea mild and hot cacciatore sliced up by hand.  Slices of Marini Prosciutto Mezzaluna, Bona Paisanella Hot, and Marini Mortadella will only add to that. One neat little party idea I’ve seen is for “Mortadella shots.”  You take thick slices of mortadella, maybe 3/4″ to 1″ thick, and cut them into cubes.  You then carve out the middle of the cube to make it into a little square mortadella cup which you then fill with some good balsamic vinegar.  You can then make a mousse out of the leftover pieces of mortadella.

Marini Foods is a collaboration of two historic family-founded businesses born in the 1960s: Bona Foods founded by the Arnone family and Rea Foods by the family of the same name.

The two companies both specialized in Italian sausage-making. Rino explains that for three decades, the two clans enjoyed a friendly, but competitive, run as independents, until the early 2000s when the families decided to combine talents and amalgamate forces into one.

“We created Marini Foods Ltd., which symbolizes the ‘Mar’riage of A’rnone and “R’rea as families,” he says. John Rea not only brought his deli meat experience to the marriage, but three sons, Nino, Gianni, and Mike who are all very active in running the company and keeping the old traditions alive.

The company now specializes in food-processing, manufacturing and distributing a variety of Italian-style deli meats throughout Canada. They have been serving Canadians with 50 types of sausage products, for decades. 

“I like to think that I got the ‘best of both worlds,’ in that I grew up with both Italian and Canadian traditions,” Rino smiles. While his father was born in Calabria, Rino’s mother Norma, was born in Wiarton, Ontario (yes, where Wiarton Willy is from), and is of Scottish/English descent. But he’s firm about the food.  “Italian food is the best though. My father’s roots in southern Calabria played a significant factor in the products that Bona Foods made and that Marini continues to make.”

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