Keeping on talking about the truffles, the precious ‘diamonds’ that can be found in the Marche, today we are going to introduce someone who supplies rare truffles to high-end New York City restaurants. We met Francesca Sparvoli, better known as the TruffleLady of New York and we talked about her experience as an entrepreneur and importer in the USA.
- Why did you decide to move from the Marche to New York and how long have you been living here? Did you move by yourself?
I moved to New York with my partner Marco in August 2012. As many other people, we were looking for a business opportunity outside of our country, Italy, which is currently in the midst of a very deep recession.
- How did you come up with the idea of importing truffles in the States?
Marco is a very smart entrepreneur with excellent skills in statistical and economic surveys. In 2011 a close friend involved him in reviving the business of a company that traded mushrooms and truffles. Thanks to our knowledge of the American market and our personal contacts in the Marche, we took the decision to try to drive the business of the company abroad.
- Which difficulties did you have to deal with to step your business into the US market and are you still dealing with them?
I think the New York market is one of the most competitive in the world. Problems never end, especially when it comes to any kind of small business. We are totally focused on quality, certified Italian origin of our products and high-end service. However, you must never lower your focus not even for a second, otherwise you’ll lose out. I get up early in the morning, workout to stay fit (well, this work is also physical), I answer to emails, I do bookkeeping, prepare the truffles and then: ready to go! All these steps must be done before the competition has drink their first sip of coffee.
- Through our blog we are trying to promote the Marche region, which is still little-known abroad despite its immense cultural and natural heritage and a wide culinary offer. Among other many resources ‘made in Marche’ we also include truffles. With your business not only you trade truffles abroad, but I guess, you often has to explain the origin of this precious tuber, as well. So, how hard is it to promote or even to advertise the existence of the Marche region overseas?
It is actually very difficult. Starting from the name: “Marce ‘? Marke ‘? How do you spell it? “I always wonder why ‘. We don’t have the international tourism of Tuscany or of other big cities, yet. They did not even name our region in English: there is Florence in Tuscany, or Turin in Piedmont…
Wines and local products can be a good promotional tool. When it comes to truffles we still have to fight with the more popular truffles from the city of Alba. As for wines, the Verdicchio is the only label known out of our country. To the great despair of sommeliers of the greatest restaurants that bother me every time balming about the near absence of wine labels from the Marche. Also, the certifications required for exporting cured meats are very complicated, but we won’t give up our dream of exporting the “ciauscolo” of the Marche” (a local salami)
- What’s the thing you miss the most of Italy and, in particular, of the Marche, now that you’re living abroad?
Anything! Family, friends, the food, the weather, the landscape, the friendliness and especially the tranquillity. Everybody’s stressed out here, the rythm of life is so ektic that a sick person on the train is not even considered as a human-being, but as an obstacle in our crazy path, though. We are harassed by millions of loud noise in an urban environment that is mostly dirty and hostale. And I have to admit that I was deeply in love with this city in the past. They say in order to survive here, you have to go away for the weekend at least once a month. Rarely done in three years. Could this be the reason?
- Francesca, you’re also known as the “Truffle Lady” of New York. Where does this ‘name’ come from?
Customers started calling me this way, especially because Done4ny (which is the name of our company) did not sound as catchy. Marco loved the name so much that he decided to set the marketing campaign on it, branding also preserved truffles products under the “Truffle Lady” name. One day, a customer told us: “There might be many ladies with truffles but only one Truffle Lady”.
- What is the thing that fascinates most the Americans about the truffles?
Those who have tasted it at least once, they adore its scent. I think most people appreciate the flavor, while many other are attracted by the knowledge that it is a culinary rarity nature allows just for a few months a year, at least for white truffles.
Then they go crazy in getting to know how much it takes for such a unique treat to get found and reach our table: the search with the dog, the cold days in the woods, the care in digging gently while the dog goes crazy with happiness, the rush to sale and the often exhausting negotiations with our collaborators, the cleaning, the selection, the enormous waste before getting the approval to get into the US market, the drive to the airport, the customs procedures, the ride in the cargo area of New York, the anxious waiting of inspection, the third inspection before being submitted to the judgment of the chef …and then finally…to the plate. All those steps in 48 hours and 36 hours to sell them once the truffles land in New York. People say working in the stock market is stressful…they have never tried this adrelin that makes us feel so exhausted at night but still very happy.
A special thanks to Francesca&Marco for this interesting interview!
Please find more infos on their official website: “Done4NY” and please follow Francesca on all social networks to get her latest news!