Free L.A. Screening Thursday, Tomato Fraud & Recommendations & Olive Oil update.
Cottonwood and Red Sandstone, Escalante, Utah
Happy Autumn Amici,
This Thursday, Nov. 21 at Cal State Northridge there will be a free screening at the Armer Theatre, 5:30-7:30pm with a director Q&A.
18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, Ca. 91330
Free Admission. Refreshments will be served.
Special thanks to professor Patrizia Miller for creating this screening.
The San Marzano tomato is the main tomato used with Neapolitan pizza. They are special because they have a low seed count, low acidity and become extraordinary sweet and creamy when cooked only a few minutes. While I do not recommend raw San Marzano's for salads, I highly recommend them for a quick gnocchi, pasta, or pizza sauce. Once they are cooked even slightly, something magical occurs.
As with olive oil, there is a tremendous amount of fraud and deception in the San Marzano tomato market. Continue reading!
Those of you who have seen the film, will fondly remember the San Marzano tomato sequence with the funny and charming contadino/farmer Ciccio who is a constant source of humor and amusement... and Neapolitan chaos.
Many have asked. "Where can I get a great San Marzano tomato?".
Cento which I bought at Trader Joe's for $4 are thoroughly horrible; tasteless, terrible texture, and not creamy or resembling anything like a true San Marzano. Do not buy them!
Do not waste your money on these fraudulent tomatoes.
Come to find out, affirming my tastebuds, in February 2019 a class action lawsuit was indeed filed against Cento for fraud. And just today, as I write this, I discovered that the mafioso behind the fraud is none other than Giuseppe Napoletano, the owner of the farm where I filmed!!!
"In May 2019, Napoletano was declared guilty although the statute of limitations saved him from serving his two year sentence. In order to circumvent the certification process, Napoletano led certification agents on inspection tours through “false fields” that were not actually used to produce the used tomatoes and also bribed inspectors. Cento’s tomatoes were certified by Napoletano as a part of this scheme."
Solania, the farm of Napoletano's where I filmed was indeed a certified DOP San Marzano farm. However Napoletano was, and still may be, caught up in extra circular fraudulent activity and bribery.
At least Ciccio was funny.
Last year, friend and mensch Joe Fugere, the generous owner of Tutta Bella pizzerias in Seattle, sponsored a screening at Seattle's Ark Lodge Cinema. Not only did Joe wonderfully moderate the Q&A, but he gave each audience member a can of his tomatoes to take home. I left with a case! They are indeed exquisite.
The best canned tomato from Naples I can recommend is from Tutta Bella Pizzeria in Seattle. See recipe below.
Tutta Bella tomatoes can be found at PCC, QFC (Kroger), Safeway, and Albertson’s in the Pacific Northwest. They average about $3.49 per can. Joe writes, "Any day now, we’re going to be offering a two for one special to celebrate the holidays. People should be looking for that in all locations". If you would like to order them by mail, you can also email him at email@example.com to "arrange" a shipment.
If you haven't grown your own this year and want fresh San Marzano's for a quick sauce, at Trader Joes you can find a small bag for $3. As the winter approaches they will be sourced from Mexico rather than California. (Tuttabella's are from Naples!)
1. A good splash of quality olive oil on medium-low heat.
2. Once oil is warm, add 3-4 large whole cloves of garlic. let them simmer but not brown or burn.
3. Add tomatoes and sea salt and cook for about 4-5 minutes.
4. With a fork, smash the remaining tomatoes that haven't already softened, cook 4 more minutes until the sauce is consistent.
5. Add basil and oregano...cook a few more minutes and at the very finish, add black pepper and a dash of olive oil.
Remove garlic cloves before serving.
The result will be a quick, very creamy, sweet and rich sauce for some gnocchi or orecchiette.
Other brands that I have tasted and are good are Strianese, Italbrand and Regina if you can find them. Tutta Bella's are my clear favorite and always consistent. And we love Joe Fugere who has been a tremendous support with this film from the start.
Lastly, many of you have written me regarding the fact that California Estate Olive Oil at Trader Joes has been discontinued. A few days ago, I tasted the replacement for that product (see photo below) and it is fresh, green, spicy at the start, and clearly authentic. Is it as round, sweet and full as Novello; or even better, Pornanino, De Carlo or Foddi from Italy? No. Yet for a year- round mono-varietal oil at 13$ a liter, it is a good and healthy find. For those of you new to this "newsletter", you can read the detailed olive oil blog by scrolling through this blog dated Feb 9. or
“I don't give up, but I do move on".
- Matteo Troncone -
The above quote is in reference to all the "struggles" in life but particularly with regard to the various Italian organizations, (and there have been MANY) that have not shown me or this film any courtesy, respect or in many instances, common decency. I have learned that if I have to force things, push, or try too hard, it is better to walk away and move on. Arrivederci!
Once again, thank you to Paola, Bianca and Susan at the Museo Italoamericano in San Francisco for their love and support.
Cottonwoods, Escalante National Monument
All images ©Matteo Troncone