When talking about truffles in Italy (and beyond), it is only natural for Urbani Tartufi to come to mind. Founded in Scheggino, a small, charming village in the heart of Umbria in 1852, the company is now symbolic of Made in Italy excellence throughout the world. Having grown over the course of decades and generations – it is now in its sixth – the company has expanded to include 10 locations, 5 brands and 300 employees, which has allowed it to win over 60% of the global market. In order to discover the secrets of Urbani Tartufi, we chatted with Giammarco Urbani, owner of the company with his father Bruno, Group CEO. Together with Olga and Carlo, they form the “great truffle family”. Giammarco told us about the company and also gave us some very valuable practical advice on how to use truffles.
What are the main markets for your products?
“We export to 70 different countries around the world, but the predominant markets are America and all of Europe.”
Who picks your raw ingredients (truffles and mushrooms)?
“We exclusively buy from specialised, serious traders in the sector who, in turn, are able to buy truffles from tens of thousands of truffle hunters throughout Italy. We also buy from abroad, which we are unfortunately forced to do because of an ill-conceived law that is destroying Italian truffles to the benefit of all the other European countries.”
What are the factors that affect the quality and availability of truffles?
“Truffles are still a wonderful mystery, and we like to call them miracles of the earth. Although we are all convinced that summer rains and a favourable climate are determining factors, truffles never cease to surprise us. Sometimes excellent quality truffles can also be found during periods with an unfavourable climate.”
Why do truffles cost so much? And how would you respond to the people who say that truffles cost too much?
“Everything that is very difficult to find comes with a high price. Finding truffles is very unpredictable given that the work is so tiring and they are so rare. Sometimes a truffle hunter can return exhausted with their dog totally worn out, without finding anything.”
If you were to make a list of basic rules for storing and using truffles, what would you say?
“We have always recommended wrapping truffles individually in paper and storing them in the lower part of the fridge. The only rules we would give are:
– don’t let too much time pass after buying them, rather consume them as soon as possible;
– don’t store them in closed glass jars;
– don’t store them in rice or, worse, in oil.
These conservation methods only accelerate decomposition and kill off their aroma.”
What are the main differences between white truffles and black truffles? How are they used differently when cooking?
“They are worlds apart! Aside from being much rarer and more expensive, white truffles are very intense and have a much stronger flavour and aroma. Black truffles are superb but have an earthier flavour, the flavour of moss from the damp forest, which evokes memories of nature. White truffles are always accompanied by butter, cream and cheese. Black truffles use extra virgin olive oil as their base.”
It might not be an easy choice to make, but which are your favourite products in your range? Can you suggest how to use them or what to combine them with when cooking?
“Urbani Tartufi produces more than 600 products for shops, restaurants and many other types of outlets. I would say that the line of ready-made sauces is really surprising, and the black truffle and artichoke sauce is truly excellent. Then there is the truffle pesto, the white truffle fonduta…I could keep going on and on, up until the chocolates with real truffle and our exquisite white truffle ice cream, which is a recent creation! Using our products is very simple: just add our sauces to freshly cooked pasta, boiled or roasted meat and fish, or on top of an appetising bruschetta.”
And what is your favourite dish that uses truffles?
“I love white truffle risotto! Our Chairman loves black truffles, however, especially with eggs, while Olga and Carlo (he says smiling, editor’s note) love both kinds: the important thing is that there are plenty of them!”