FROM THE RICH SOIL OF TUSCIA TO THE AUSTRALIAN TABLE
Etruscan Import is the first food operator that imports from one single area in Italy. (In the photo Natalie and Simone, Founders of Etruscan Imports)
Melbournians are spoiled for choice for Italian food, but for those concerned with provenance, quality and authenticity, there is something new on the menu.
Etruscan Imports is the brainchild of husband and wife team Simone Marini and Natalie Sarau, and the concept is bringing one of Italy’s best kept culinary secrets into Australia, the country the couple now call home.
‘The idea was born 2 or 3 years ago, and it came when we discovered that there is a real lack of knowledge about the area I come from in Italy,’ Simone says. He comes from Cura di Vetralla in the province of Viterbo, a beautiful but seldom visited area of Lazio, corresponding to the ancient Etruscan civilization.
‘We are really passionate about the area,’ says Natalie. ‘The idea for our business was born from our love of the area and our love of food.’
Also entrenched in the concept, is a long, ancient history, one that Simone is proud of.
‘Not many people know about the Etruscans, because they were invaded and completely destroyed by the Romans. They were a very advanced society in terms of food culture and the social status of women, but unfortunately we know very little about them.’
A stone’s throw from Rome and Tuscany, the province of Viterbo boasts three of the largest volcanic lakes in Europe. The ancient volcano complexes in the region also mean that the soil is incredibly rich in minerals, conducive to organic cultivation of olives, grapes and wheat. Etruscan Imports are giving Australian foodies the opportunity to discover this remarkable region through their products. Olive Oil, Wine, and Pasta made from the region’s wheat carry these precious minerals from the quality soil of the area.
‘What is really important to me, is that people understand that it is the soil that makes the product unique,’ says Simone.
‘It really is an incredible area that needs to be discovered,’ adds Natalie.
The couple are uniquely placed to shake up Melbourne’s Italian food scene, with a history in imports, marketing, and a deep understanding of the food culture in both Australia and Italy.
‘I’ve been living (in Australia) for 10 years, this is my country,’ says Simone. ‘When I finished Uni in Perugia, I followed by dream and came out to Australia. I’d always had this dream of a far away place with so many animals. I came with a Working Holiday Visa and I’m sill here today. Natalie and I met here in Australia 7 years ago.’
Of their love story Natalie says, ‘We met through food. I happened to go to DOC for the first time, and Simone was working there. There’s a bit of a joke. We’ve got a lot of friends who have met and married at DOC! That was 7 years ago, and I think we’ve eaten and drunk our way around most of Europe since then. Now we have a one-year old baby, Julian. Simone wanted to name him ‘Francesco Totti’ but I put my foot down on that one!’
Estruscan Imports have started importing a few products already, including pasta, olive oil and hazelnut spread, but Simone and Natalie have a few exciting new products up their sleeve as well.
‘We’ll increase the quantity as we go,’ says Simone, ‘for now we are most concerned with quality. No-one else is doing imports concentrated from one single area in Italy.’
‘People know about Puglia for Olive oil, Naples for Pasta, Chianti for wine, but we have all that in our region,’ Natalie adds. ‘The business is growing, but it’s growing organically which is really nice. Eventually the idea is to take Australian tourists to the area, and let Australians fully experience its beauty for themselves.’
Simone is determined to share his love and experience of his homeland with his new country. ‘We will be working closely with travel agencies and the tourism department of Viterbo. Hopefully in summer 2021 we’ll have the first group of Australian tourists visiting our region.’