Recently, we were invited to participate in the Italian Food & Wine Exposition in Chicago. It was a distinct honor to be invited to this extraordinary event, co-sponsored by the Chicago and Houston Italian Chambers of Commerce, as only three importers in the U.S. had been invited to it. RITROVO® was the only West Coast importer Invited.
Our bags deftly packed with new, classic, and award winning RITROVO® products, national sales manager Catie DiGregorio and I were off to the Windy City. We would be making connections with Chicago and Texas restaurateurs and buyers; in addition, we would be seeking out new Italian food and wine producers at the Expo.
Immediately upon arrival, we stopped by The Merchandise Mart to meet with Liz Songer and Executive Chef Janet Kirker as well as marvel at their gorgeous, well-appointed kitchens over at The Chopping Block. At many of their 300+ attendee per month cooking classes, RITROVO SELECTIONS™ mainstays such as popcorn seasoned with TRUFFLE & SALT are served as a snack for students. Liz and Janet were delighted with our new items such as POMEGRANATE WINE VINEGAR and 100% ITALIAN PINE NUTS, which we would be honored to have featured in their amazing venue.
On our first day, we arrived at Carmichael’s exhibition area and chatted with fellow exhibitors, then we rushed to our esteemed customer and elite restaurant Spiaggia, to meet another esteemed customer, Eugene Bamber for a stunning dinner of rich, truffled scallops, delicate borsette pasta filled with fennel and pork puree, and robust perfectly cooked lamb chops. We were welcomed warmly by Chef Sarah Gruenberg who – notwithstanding, having been busy filming the most recent season of Top Chef — spent time at our table waxing over RITROVO® ingredients like CONTRONE HOT PEPPER and ‘GOAT HORN’ SNACKING PEPPERS. There is nothing more satisfying than sitting down with long-time RITROVO friends such as like Eugene Bamber of Bambers and tasting the fruits of our common labor.
The next two days flew by as we sampled out products such as RITROVO SELECTIONS™ PASTA SAUCE, EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL WITH SICILIAN LEMON, LEMON BISCOTTI, and TAVOLOZZE, our new snack cracker which is rapidly growing in popularity. A truly memorable moment was sharing a pot of ever-popular CONTRONE BEANS (also known in Chicago as ‘breakfast of champions’) that we had prepared the night before.
Our nights were filled with the Italians dinners celebrating their union with American buyers and purveyors. Producers provided their cheese, wine, and olive oil, working together with Italian restaurant owners in the city of Chicago, such as Tocco Restaurant.
Overall, it was an astonishing example of partnerships between the Italy-America Chambers of Commerce, exhibitors like ourselves and Italian partners like Regione Lombardia. Exhibitors and guests included innovative, diligent wine importers, like our new friends at The Harvest, and buyers from quality retailers such as Vino 100, Specs Liquors, and Fox & Obel, all converged in the exciting food city of Chicago.
Ci siamo ritrovati with all of them.