Meet & Eat: Rosario Safina, Tartufi
Truffles. For some, just a whiff of truffle essence is intoxicating. Rosario Safina is a professional tartufi who, for twenty years, worked at and ultimately ran the largest truffle distributor in the country. He then formed daRosario Organics, a line of all-organic truffle products, and spends his time traveling to and from the Umbrian Valley in Italy to bring a taste of luxury back to the U.S.
Occupation: Founder of daRosario Organics
Do you remember the first time you ever tasted a truffle? In 1981, I bought a jar of cooked white truffles and ate them straight out of the jar. I was a bit perplexed because it tasted like a sponge soaked in chicken broth and dirty feet. It wasn't until a few years later that I tasted a fresh white truffle for the first time. Needless to say, it was a world of difference from the jarred stuff!
How did you decide to make truffles the focus of your career? I grew up watching The Galloping Gourmet, which gave me a lifelong appetite for fine foods. After college, I started a gourmet food catalog, which didn't do very well, but I met a lot of interesting gourmet food importers along the way. One of them was the older American cousin of an Italian truffle family who was looking to retire. He took me under his wing, and then ended up teaching me the business.
You've even written a book about them, Truffles: Ultimate Luxury, Everyday Pleasure What would Serious Eaters learn from reading it? There are many inexpensive ways to enjoy truffles—for example, I have a recipe for a simple bruschetta with fresh ricotta and truffle honey. Toast with poached egg, truffle oil and a little grating of Parmigiano.
Tell us about the truffles you've found and the farm you work with in the Umbrian Valley in Italy. Our land in Umbria is a USDA Certified Organic olive grove that was never fully developed; we made an exclusive agreement with the cooperative that owns the land to buy their organic truffles, which have grown there for as long as anyone can remember.
Where can we find your products? In New York, you can get them through Fresh Direct, Fairway, Zabar's, Amish Market and Chelsea Market Baskets. They're available on the web at Earthy.com and Amazon.com.
What's your favorite truffle dish you've eaten? Every year, our friends host a white truffle dinner, and we always make a white truffle and taleggio pizza with a hand-rolled crust as an appetizer. I've never seen so many adults push others out of the way to grab a slice!
Do you have any unusual suggestions for Serious Eaters about how to use truffles or truffle products? For an easy family dinner, I buy frozen, organic chicken pot pies from The Cleaver Company in Chelsea Market and stick them in the oven. Right before serving, I take a 1/2 teaspoon of our organic white truffle butter and push it through the crust of each pie. My wife and 14-year old son love it!
What are your favorite local hangouts or places you might be considered a regular? Lately I've been hanging out at Terroir, Marco Canora's new place in my neighborhood (Tribeca). I like it for its easy atmosphere, great wine list, and homemade charcuterie.
Favorite pizza and burger in NYC? I love Farinella's organic pizzeria on Worth Street —the potato-rosemary and Margherita are the best. The owner is a former Italian rap star! For burgers, my son and I go to Bill's Bar & Burger in the Meatpacking District. I go for the Bacon and Cheddar Burger.
What NYC foods do you crave the most often when you're not in town? Vietnamese sandwiches from Sau Voi Corp on Lafayette.
What is in your fridge that you'd be embarrassed to tell us about?
I always keep organic frozen peas on hand. I put them in sauces, rice dishes, pasta dishes, salads and soups. I serve them as a side as well, with a little mint.