At Zoës Kitchen, we believe that by strategically partnering with farmers and vendors who believe in the same things we do, what you get to enjoy at our restaurant is that guilt-free, fresh, delicious Mediterranean goodness you deserve. Our Head of Culinary Innovation, Chef Antonio Iocchi, makes finding fresh ingredients one of his top priorities. He says, “I believe that every bite of our food should speak to your five senses through the freshness of our ingredients. We want the Mediterranean to speak to you in every bite.”
This summer, Chef Antonio took a trip to Italy to visit Greci, an Italian tomato farm, located in the city of Parma, to see where we source our Pomodoro sauce used in our Tomato Bisque Soup, Sorrentina Baked Ravioli, Pizza Piadina and Pasta Bowl. Parma sits in the Food Valley of Emilia Romagna, a region known for food excellence.
“If you want to find some of the best tomatoes in the Mediterranean, you can find some of the best in Parma,” explains Chef Antonio.
Many of the businesses in the Food Valley are family-run and operated, where their farming techniques and expertise have been passed down from generation to generation. The Parma area is famous for more than just their tomatoes, but also their prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, wines, home-made pasta and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The Greci Family started their business there back in 1923. Throughout the years, the Greci Family has mastered the art of tomatoes and has fine-tuned a process for making the most delicious and nutritious tomatoes and tomato sauce you can find in the Mediterranean, according to Chef Antonio. During his trip, Chef was delighted to experience the process first-hand, getting his hands into the soil that produces this beautiful crop of tomatoes. From the bright red color of the tomato and strong, delicious smell of the vine to the sweetness of the tomato itself, the Greci tomatoes really amplify all of your senses.
“This family takes pride in what they have accomplished. And they should – their process helps us bring the freshest quality tomato to our guests,” states Chef Antonio.
So, what does this process look like? From the picking of the tomato all the way to the canned product, this three-hour process manifests the Greci Family’s story of passion and tradition.
“What makes this Greci’s process different is the time it takes from picking to canning. The sauce is only cooked once which means the sauce isn’t processed multiple times. That guarantees that the sauce is as fresh as it gets,” states Chef Antonio. Chef Antonio explains the process:
- Early in the year, farmers carefully study the ground to measure the nutrients perfect for growing tomatoes, since the land rotates different crops every four years.
- Once the perfect portion of land is determined tomato plants are placed in the ground.
- Once ready, the tomatoes are then harvested, placed in a truck and headed to the Greci’s main facility for cleaning and quality control.
- All tomatoes are checked for size, color and sugar levels.
- They are then washed, peeled and prepped for sauce.
- The sauce is cooked and immediately packaged into a can.
While there, Chef Antonio spent two days in the Greci Family kitchen with well-known chefs in the Food Valley, like Chef Cristian Baiocchi. “It’s always exciting to get to spend time in the kitchen with local, innovative masterminds,” explains Chef Antonio. “What I am able to think of and create across the world, helps me to innovate and create new things for Zoës Kitchen. This helps me bring new, fresh and craveable flavors to our guests,” concludes Chef Antonio.