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Italian Food & Heritage Celebrated at Old Labor Hall in Barre

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white man in front of table with red and white checked table cloth and plates of salumni with group of people standing near.
Peter Roscini Colman of Vermont Salumi talks with members of the group from the Italian consulate. Photo by John Lazenby.
Last Tuesday, Nov. 21, Robert Campo handed a visitor a small paper plate holding two perfect ravioli covered in a bright, fresh red sauce. The co-owner of Campo di Vino in South Barre said by the end of the holiday season, he’d be making 50,000 more of those raviolis, many filled with a nugget of local sausage, made from a recipe originating with his 98-year old father’s family in Italy. Campo was one of seven area food producers who specialize in Italian cuisine at last week’s celebration of La Settimana della Cucina Italiana del Mondo (The week of Italian cuisine in the world) at the Old Labor Hall in Barre City.

In a building steeped with the history of Italian granite sculptors, socialists, and anarchists from the City’s granite heyday at the turn of the (20th) century, the Vermont Italian Cultural Association and co-hosts, the Consul General Arnaldo Minuti and other representatives of the Italian Consulate in Boston, celebrated not only Italian food last week, but the Vermonters who specialize in producing it. 

After sampling Parish Hill Creamery’s traditional Italian formaggi, or Pearl Street Pizza’s salad pizza with charcuterie and burrata — or the tender herbed focaccia from nearby Rise Up Bakery (incidentally located at the Old Labor Hall) — or Campo’s flavor-filled ravioli that will make you forget all other ravioli — you might agree with the Consul General that Italian food is indeed a “world heritage.”

Two things became apparent after visiting food vendors at the celebration: just as in Italy, the specialities served up to guests at the Labor Hall last week relied entirely on quality local ingredients, and the businesses there were primarily small, family-owned producers, like the Campo’s pasta business. In fact, Campo di Vino is not only owned by spouses Michele and Robert Campo, but is primarily staffed by Michele’s parents, ages 90 and 92. “That is our workforce,” she said.

Italian food “is always something I did,” said Peter Roscini Colman, owner of both Vermont Salumi and Barre’s AR Market (and new co-owner of the former Meadow Mart in Montpelier). Roscini told the crowd that he moved to Vermont from Italy at the age of four and grew up in Montpelier.

“I knew there was an Italian community in Barre … but I didn’t know how deep it was,” said Stefano Coppola, owner of two Barre-based restaurants: Pearl Street Pizza and Morse Block Deli. Coppola said he’s been working with people producing food from their heritage and has developed a special interest in the marconio bean, an important variety for Italian foods that nearly disappeared, but was revived by a farmer in Barre. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy addressed the gathering, speaking of his roots in Barre. Both of his grandfathers — one Irish, one Italian — were stone cutters in Barre, Leahy said. And they both died of silicosis of the lungs from the granite dust, he noted.

“We’re here because in 1900 Italian immigrants built this hall,” Leahy said.

Vendors at the event included Campo di Vino from Barre; Dell-Amore Sauce from Colchester; Parish Hill Creamery from Putney; Pearl Street Pizza from Barre; Rise Up Bakery from Barre; Trenchers Farmhouse from Lyndonville, and Vermont Salumi, in Barre.

All photos in galley below are by John Lazenby. Click on the image to enlarge it.

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