In the forests of Umbria, by the light of the moon, Truffula’s and their dogs forage for Truffles under the roots of leafy trees and hazelnut bushes. They are carefully extracted from the earth, put in a special bag, then, as fast as a Maserati can get them to Fumicino Airport in Rome, they’re on a plane to Toronto, and straight to the new online fine foods grocery store, Truffle Kings. Entrepreneur, Marco Tallarico brings the best of Italy to us through a collection of olive oils, vinegars, truffle infused foods and fresh truffles from Geo Foods in Umbria.
Consider truffles and their by-products as the world’s most expensive and elusive perfume. Their earthy scent—some say it’s a cross between garlic and sex—fills a room. At an extravagant introduction of Truffle King’s products at ONE in the Hazelton Hotel, we sniffed, tasted, smiled, and left feeling as though we had shared in nature’s magic. The kitchen prepared some pedestrian dishes and, with the addition of truffles, turned them into gold. Mac and cheese topped with shaved truffles; Drumettes aglow with truffle barbecue sauce; Truffle French fries, and more, including bags of truffle chips, are all divine!! I tasted a dreamy condiment made with white Balsamico and rose petals. After a few sips of Lavazza espresso, I said Ciao and left, but I had a few questions, so I interviewed Marco Tallarico to talk about Truffle Kings.
Sara: Truffles are a very specific product, not in general use. How did the thought of selling truffles in an on-line grocery store come to mind? Do you think Canadians are ready and eager to shave truffles on their pasta dishes?
Marco: Truffles very are hard to find and sold behind the scenes. Usually, it’s a guy rolling around with his wicker basket, travelling restaurant to restaurant to sell truffles independently and under the radar. I wanted to legitimize the practice of bringing truffles to North America and have them available through an online portal. I am filling a gap by providing more efficient and consistent ways to do business in the truffle world in North America.
Sara: Are you a “foodie” or a business person, or both.
Marco: I grew up watching my mother cook, so cooking comes naturally to me. I am definitely a foodie and love to cook meals at home for my family. Combining my passion for food in Italy with business is like a dream come true and comes very easy to me.
Sara: Have you “hand-picked” the suppliers whose products you offer to the public. Are they brands that can be purchased at your local supermarket, or are they particularly unique fine foods? What can we expect to find on the Truffle Kings grocery shelves?
Marco: I would actually say the products hand-picked me! I was doing marketing and digital marketing for a few different companies and these suppliers approached me to do some online work for them. I tasted the quality of these products and decided to create an online e-commerce store to fill the hole in the North American market. All of our products will be available in grocery stores. We do provide premium products, such as balsamic and fresh truffles that will only be sold at fine food markets rather than your everyday Sobeys, for example. We do have a more approachable product line from Calabria that isn’t as expensive, such as olive oils. That said, we have been in chats with Costco to include one of our suppliers on their shelves and we are so proud that Truffle Kings had a hand to secure that order.
Sara: Truffles are seasonal, although they are available year-round, each type of truffle is best at certain times of the year. Can you tell us about that. Spring truffles, Winter truffles, etc.
Marco: Black truffles are basically available in different species all year long. It’s the winter truffles or the white truffle that are the most difficult to find, the most precious and the most expensive. They are also the hardest to logistically move around because they only have a two- or three-day span before they lose their aroma.
Sara: Please explain, and give an example of your weekly subscription service.
Lavazza: The subscription service is a coffee program. We partnered with Lavazza to strengthen our relatability and brand awareness. Partnering with Lavazza means an instant connotation of family run, quality products and Italian. We offer a monthly subscription service with 100 organic Lavazza capsules in one order. The unique part of our subscription is if you register for a year’s subscription, we provide a free Lavazza coffee machine. It’s unlike any coffee program available to the common consumer.
Sara Waxman, OOnt, is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.