‘I can’t say it’s better than the others. All I can say is that a lot of people prefer it to the others.’
- Ennio Pasquini
Pasquini is a no nonsense, bear of a man who meets us with his arms folded and a look of undisguised scepticism. In his late 70’s, after half a century, he is still very much in charge of the business, very conscious of its importance.
Besides, time is money. But he agrees to show us around.
|Ennio Pasquini - traditional hand made mortadella|
Bologna is known the world over for a cooked sausage, the mortadella, that has its origins in the 16th century. There are many firms around Bologna entitled to stamp their mortadella IGP, as a European protected product, but Pasquini is the only one within the city walls. Moreover, it is the only truly artisanal producer, with much of the work done by hand, especially of the salame rosa variant. Including the boss, there are just seven workers. The output is a tiny 20 quintals a week, or 2000 kilos. Not a lot compared with the 37 million kilos produced in 2006 by the 30 companies that make up the Bologna Mortadella Consortium.
It is highly prized in Bologna as an aperitivo snack, as part of a plate of finely sliced salami and as an ingredient in the filling for tortellini. We also liked the mortadella mousse served at Trattoria La Montanara.
Unlike other salamis, it is cooked rather than cured. This mortadella is not to be confused with the pink, slimy chopped ham impersonators to be found in many supermarkets, especially in America. Nor does it contain the pistachios or peppercorns that some other varieties contain.
‘I decided to carry on the artisan tradition because I wanted to keep control of quality’, Pasquini explains. ‘It’s like if you had a baby, you wouldn’t want to hand it over to a nursery, you would want to bring it up yourself. Well, for me it’s the same with mortadella. ‘
He takes us into the cooling room where yesterday’s production is suspended from a large frame. ‘In some ways, it’s very easy to make. But it is also quite difficult to get right because it’s a real team effort. Yes, a team sport, not a cycle sprint. It’s like a jigsaw, every part of it has to be precision made or it won’t fit together.’
There’s a ready market for the real thing but Pasquini controls rigorously whom he allows to sell it. Simoni, the salami, ham and cheese shop in the Quadrilateral is one of the few privileged. The shelves there empty at Christmas, Davide Simoni, tells us, because that’s when mortadella is given as a present and when much of it finds its way into traditional seasonal dishes such as tortellini, a must for many Bolognese families on Christmas day.