What’s Coming Up On The Show…
On today’s show, I interview my dear friend Tony Fiasche of Nduja Artisans. We talk about his journey growing up in the restaurant world of his parents, developing and finding out that he’s a 5th generation salumi maker and he has taken this to the next level. We had some technical issues with this one so a bit of the beginning was cut off – but all of the good stuff is still there. We talk about what Nduja is because I’m sure most of you are confused about the term.
We dig deeper on what it’s like to scale and grow a company fast, some of the pressures and tribulations that go into doing that quickly.
- Enjoy the show!
About The Guest
Antonio Fiasche is the son of an Italian immigrant family that has been curing salumi for five generations, and his mom and dad still work the line each night at their restaurant in the Chicago suburbs. Fiasche grew up bussing tables and easily fell into kitchen life. He joined the team at Publican Quality Meats as a private events cook and worked there for almost two years.
When he was ready to go out on his own, he partnered with his Calabrian father, Agostino, to open ’Nduja Artisans, producing traditional Italian charcuterie using Berkshire pork and recipes that are true to their roots. What started with a few hundred pounds of ’nduja and a prayer is now a 30,000-pound-a-month curing operation.
In early 2018, Fiasche expanded his range and offerings at Tempesta Market, which includes an expansive variety of house salumi sought after by some of the best chefs in the country. The market also draws crowds for their superlative sandwiches (and meat cones!), which The Chicago Tribune called “joyously unhinged,” “playfully devious,” and “uber-luscious” in a twostar review—not bad for a deli. For Fiasche, Tempesta is the beginning of an expansion plan that will introduce consumers, locally and across the country, to the glories of cured meats and Calabrian chiles.
Interview with 2018 Chicago Rising Star Artisan Antonio Fiasche
Caroline Hatchett: It’s been a few years since we’ve caught up. What’s happening?
Antonio Fiasche: Our wholesale production is four times greater. There’s been a great response to the product, and we’re sticking to our values. We’re sourcing from the farmers we want to work with and using the ingredients we want to source. The retail shop has been in the back of my mind for the last few years, and we finally opened [Tempesta Market] December 1. We’ll be rebranding [from ’Nduja Artisans] to Tempesta Artisan Salumi. ‘Nduja is still our number one seller. Hot soppressata is popular too; we sell it to pizza restaurants. We sell a ton of guanciale. I think it has more flavor, compared to commodity pancetta that’s cured quickly. Our guanciale ages three months, and cheek meat is tastier anyway.
CH: Why go into retail?
AF: My girlfriend thinks I’m crazy. The idea is to have a place to showcase our products to chefs from out of town, and to have our distributors bring people here—like a showroom of sorts. We do tests—cooked products, patés, etc.—to get direct customer feedback on our products. Deep down, I love the restaurant business as much as I hate it. My dad and I are partners in this; we pieced it together. We jumped in 100 percent on a lease in a new food hall called Well St. Market. They needed an Italian concept, so we’ll have a 120 square foot location when it opens in either May or June. We’ll sell salumi, cheese boards, and four sandwiches. Even if we only break even, that place will be our billboard.
CH: You’ve expanded your repertoire considerably since the early days of ’Nduja Artisans. Tell us about some of your newer products.
AF: We developed sobrasata for Jaleo in Las Vegas. I walked into the restaurant and the chef said, “I love your ’nudja!” We got to talking about sobrasata, a cousin to ’nudja from Majorca. It’s smokier, leaner, and milder, and it’s made with Ibérico and lots of garlic. José [Andres] told his chef that he wouldn’t use sobrasata made anywhere other than Spain. I said, “Challenge accepted.”
We’re also working on wagyu beef pastrami and want to take it wholesale soon. We sneaked in a little sweet Calabrian chile along with black pepper and coriander. We cold smoke it, chill it, add another layer of seasoning, and then cook it in the oven. We also have a pork liver mousse with Asian flavors—sambal, sriracha, and soy sauce—in it.
CH: What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?
Finding enough hours in the day. Finding the right people is also hard. Mike is our chef and Darren is our manager. We’re blessed to have them. Our production manager has been with me for two years. It’s about finding people with passion.
CH: What’s your five-year plan?
AF: This started with me and my dad making ’nduja. We cured 200 pounds of pork, and it took me forever to sell it. I friended every chef on Facebook to try and get it done. Now we process 30,000 pounds a month. We sell a lot in New York, Florida, California and the Midwest.
My main dream is to own my own USDA-certified plant. We technically co-pack, but I have my own processing team. When it’s your own, you do what you need to. I’d have to take on an investor—I’m losing sleep over it. Maybe one day we’d franchise this place. Ultimately, we want to be able to do things the right way and put out good food. We’re always trying to elevate our products and make them tastier.