Interview and considerations

I met Salvatore Lenzi this summer, by chance. I was on my way to a trekking outing around Lake Laceno. I decided to stop in Bagnoli, because I wanted to visit the town, sample some of the famous Pecorino Bagnolese Dop Cheese, get some food for the outing. I was attracted by the window of this boutique-like shop on the main square. The place is not large, yet it has an elegant look about it, showcasing a variety of products, ranging from Truffles to pasta, beer, mushrooms, cheeses, all paired with or flavoured by Truffles. Mr. Lanzi was happy to give me all the info I wanted, enthusiastic about me shooting a video in his venue, even upon a first acquaintance. His simple, straightforward approach sparked a respectful friendship, and this interview is the result.

Question: Mr. Lenzi, how did your passion for Truffles come about?

Answer: I became truly passionate about Truffles thirty years ago, when I was a university student in Naples. I began supplying the best food shops and restaurants with the objective of paying for my studies and earning a little money.

Q.: What are the peculiar properties of the Truffle of Bagnoli Irpino?

A.: The Black Truffle of Bagnoli features a strong smell that makes the Scorzone pale in comparison (its scent is almost banal), while the prestigious Bianco d’Alba is more delicate and exquisite.

Q.: Could you describe the smell and aroma (the scent perceived from the back of the nasal cavity, after chewing a food) of your truffles?

A.: The smell is quite subjective. It impacts some people almost like the smell of cooking-gas, for others it resembles bitumen used in tarmac, but, matter of fact, after a while you end up falling in love with it, because you realise it’s a unique product of nature.

Q.: The Truffle of Bagnoli was unknown to most people, was it easy to put it on the map and make it popular?

A.: The work to make it emerge was by no means easy, and there is still much to do. Personally, I have attended international fairs for years in order to present this jewel of nature and all the products deriving from it. I must say that it was belittled by my competitors for years, because they did not want it to be a success. Luckily they were proven wrong and a great number of people now appreciate our truffles.

Q.: What are the costs producers incur in, what is it that makes truffles so valuable and expensive?

A.: Truffles are costly because they are not easy to obtain, they have a very limited season and at the same time, their consumption is limited to certain periods of the year. That is why prices peak just before Christmas time. 

Q.: Are there any trufflières in Bagnoli, or do you rely on cercatori (finders) for your supplies?

A.: I possess a natural trufflière, but I mostly rely on expert cavatori (diggers) who go out on a daily basis to look for truffles across the mountains.

Q.: Truffles have become a symbol of distinction in the world of restaurants, on peer with Champagne and caviar. How did this association come about? Is it an idea linked to luxury or is it because of their charisma and uniqueness?

A.: Truffles are, together with saffron, the most expensive food human beings can ingest. This is due to their rarity, but also to territorial marketing, status, trendiness, belonging to special categories… when you say you ate white truffle yesterday, or you went to a restaurant where the menu is totally based on truffles, that instantly makes you feel special… don’t you think so? It is obviously not there for everyone, but many people do appreciate it.

Q.: Is there any collaboration or pairing you would care to mention? This summer, for instance, I noticed many French Fromageries (cheese shops) sold Canestrato di Moliterno (an Italian Igp cheese) with truffles…

A.: We have had many collaborations over the years, just to mention France, the latest one was with my friend and renowned chef Norbert. Another collaboration between Regilait products and Tenzi Tartufi. We presented some recipes together for tastings, among which an excellent Truffle Omelette.

Q.: What is you favourite way, or recipe, to eat Truffles?

A.: Truffles should be eaten in the most simple ways. Grated or sliced onto pasta dishes in bianco (with no tomato sauce), or even better in flakes on fried eggs (typical in the Abruzzi Region).

Q.: What is the product that best represents Lenzi Tartufi, the one you are most proud of?

A.: The best-selling product across the world is the Salsa Tartufata (Truffled Sauce) of Bagnoli. It is appreciated by many clients and used in a variety of different ways… on pasta dishes, bruschetta, pizza, side dishes, etc.

While thanking Mr. Lenzi for the interview and for the interesting insights he gave us, I would like to add a personal considerationon Truffles in general.

Truffles thrive in woods and natural environments untouched by the chemicals used in intensive agriculture and pollution. These are, coincidentally, places of great natural beauty, landscapes that should be preserved for future generations (as proven by a vast body of UNESCO Recommendations). The economy of Truffles is Sustainable and it therefore follows that it plays an important role in the much-needed Conservation of Nature. This is something that the whole food community should encourage and highlight.

So enjoy your Truffles and show your love for nature, everyone!

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Sean Altamura

Half English / half Italian, I was born in Naples and named after S. Connery. I am a naturally curious person and I have taken on many interests throughout my life. I am an English teacher. However, I love travelling and I have visited many countries spanning five continents. I became involved in food a few years ago, when I organised an English lesson focussed on Cheese Tasting. Since then, I have become a Cheese Taster (Onaf), and a Youtuber, shooting many videos about food. I am greatly honoured to be collaborating with La Buona Tavola, and I hope I’ll be able to share many interesting stories and experiences with our Readers.
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