The story of a representative who once decided to make people know the apulian tarallo.
How did the idea of producing only taralli come about?
We were born because the market for taralli in Italy was orphaned of the true taralli of the tradition. The products on the market were sold as handcrafted but when I happened to ask for an opinion to various consumers in northern Italy, often the answer I received was that they didn’t like them. They had never eaten the real artisan tarallo.
In the end, did you manage to make the real Apulian tarallo known?
We were the last born, we started in February 2005, but we are those who have moved a lot further than others, whether it’s because of the past experience or quality, the reliability and the service we can provide. I dare to say thatwe have obtained an excellent response. We distribute taralli in almost all of Italy: the major players in the large-scale distribution are our customers, from Esselunga to Auchan, passing through Aspiag. I think I can say, even with a pinch of pride, that our taralli are the best distributed on the national territory. In the highway we are present in the entire network “Sarni”.
Foreign countries are not very important to me, the first step is to be known on the national territory. Export can be a plus, but we’re not going to look for it at all costs. Today it represents about 7-8% of our revenues, not much compared to other competitors better known abroad than in Italy.
What was your job before you started producing taralli?
I was a sales agent and distributor of sweets and other typical Apulian products in the area. I used to address some factories in the territory and I had orecchiette, friselle, taralli and other typical Apulian products produced according to my recipe, that I distributed in the area of Foggia and Bari with my own brand, “The Treasures of Canusium”, a brand that was born in 1985.
How did the decision to move from distribution to production arrive?
When I started distributing across regional borders, I found myself at a crossroads: continue to be a small trader or make the qualitative leap and become a producer with much broader horizons. I was not faced with a new need, but a new dream. Today I can say that I do the activity that I have always wanted to do.
In this passage, however, you have never betrayed the initial spirit: be faithful to the craftsmanship of the product, the authenticity, the link with the territory.
If in other areas of Italy they can boast products that are recognized as excellence all over the world is because they continue to produce them according to the classic methods of tradition. This is the spirit that led me to produce Apulian taralli.
An activity and a history that come from far away…
My story was born for economic reasons. My father passed away very young and in those days my mother to avoid going to work and be subjected to criticism who could have been addressed to her preferred to work in the house, earn little, but keep faith to her integrity. Here in Canosa we had the local wood-fired ovens, many women had the habit to bake bread at home, my mother used to make bread on commission, taralli, Christmas sweets, Easter sweets for people in the neighborhood. It was not
a commercial activity as one may understand today, but only a means of subsistence which together with the pension allowed her to go on and raise two young children. While I was studying, I was used to help her out of my possibilities.
What struck you about that experience to the point of making it a reason for living?
It was not a shock. I grew up between flours and recipes, I acquired an important gastronomic culture and when I started my business I brought my experience in my daily work. I tell you a story that can say more than anything else. Between Canosa and Cerignola the burned wheat is a well-known flour, we’re in the lower Tavoliere and since we were children we’ve grown up with the strascinate of burnt wheat. I remember that my mother made the bread that here in Canosa we call “pane e prosciutto” in dialect, half white and half dark. Today our pride is to have been the first to produce in Italy the burned-wheat taralli. At
the beginning many people had advised me against this new line since no one in northern Italy even knew what the burnt grain was. Today, however, everyone has fallen in love with our burnt wheat taralli and they’ve all started to produce them.
In short, I understand that in addition to tradition there is also the courage to innovate.
I say this with a pinch of pride: we were the latest born in the market, we have not reached our goal yet, there is always a new challenge to face, and still we are the ones that are burning steps more than anyone. Today we are the most imitated both for the shapes, and for the tastes. We have also brought innovation in flavors, but always drawing on recipes of the Apulian and Italian culinary tradition. Let me give you another example: we invented the taralli cacio e pepe, a tasty recipe typically burina from Rome, in this case too, we started when many people didn’t even know what “cacioe pepe” was meant. Then we invented
the taralli potatoes and rosemary or the taralli garlic, oil and chilli. Today these tastes are also produced by all the others.
What’s so special about your recipe?
My recipe has absolutely nothing special, it’s just a matter of balances of authentic ingredients and flavors. A traditional
product cannot be degraded in the name of the competition and therefore of the price, on the contrary it must be prepared to become a cultural heritage to be passed to our children. When you eat a Canestrato Pugliese or a caciocavallo podolico of Gargano you know that you are eating a piece of culture of the Apulian territory. I do not see why it cannot be the same with our tarallo. Here we have always used oil derived from olives, never the infamous oil of palm tree.
One of your strengths is a line of handmade taralli: what is the difference with a tarallo made by a machine?
I can assure you that even if you use a single recipe and the same ingredients, the automated industrial production and manual production offer two completely different products. This does not mean that one tarallo is better than the other, it is only a matter of preference. It is not the taste that changes, but the consistency of the product. The handmade tarallo has a greater crunchiness, while the one made by the machines comes out more oxygenated and therefore with a particular friability. Being a connoisseur of the tarallo, if you allow me, I would say that the handmade tarallo, as we do it, is the non plus ultra.
Is the origin of the tarallo truly Apulian?
There are several legends that associate the tarallo with Puglia and Frederick II. I don’t know if i should believe the legends, I only note that in the preparation of the taralli only three ingredients are used: wheat, oil and white wine. Three basic ingredients of the Apulian agri-food production that our housewives had at home at any moment. Then there is another aspect to be taken into consideration. Once upon a time many Apulian laborers moved away from their homes for weeks, for harvesting, to the areas of Potenza and Foggia. They went from field to field and they couldn’t bring with them the bread that after a day became stale, but rather the boiled tarallo. This type of cooking gave the tarallo a certain length of time in consumption. Well, I believe that this tradition explains better than any other legend the Apulian origin of our tarallo. For this reason, on our packaging we write always “Apulian taralli”, even for those prepared by hand we specify that they are taralli of Canosa di Puglia because we believe we make here a very different and particular product.
You are a successful entrepreneur, well-known in Italy and also in the world, and still it seems to have in front of me a villager very attached to his territory, one that does not fancy himself, not a ponce. Someone who still cares about the local football team, to use an example.
No, you’re not wrong. Actually, I also support the basketball team here in Canosa. I do what I can for this territory.
Tell us more about yourself: what do you like to do when out of work, what do you like to eat? In other words, who’s Nunzio?
Nunzio is a “boy” (Margiotta smiles)… Nunzio “was” a boy who made himself, sometimes even making mistakes and paying out of his own pocket. I’ve never regretted anything, neither I gave up to the fate: I’ve always thought that what’s happening to me today is because I looked for it and I still continue to do it with passion and sacrifice.
Here I see many photos of children. Let’s say you love being a grandfather…
Being a grandfather is a beautiful thing that God wanted to give me. Meanwhile, there is something to say: I have four sons, I haven’t had a daughter and God wanted to give me 5 grandchildren, all male. My first three married children wanted to give my name to their firstborns, Nunzio, and this is an important sign for me because it reveals the deep roots of our family. We are very united among ourselves. I have passed on to my children this passion, they have followed and supported me: today they
are the team, I’m the “mister” and I work for them. In the meantime we also have a nice nursery to cultivate and to make grow.
What is the most important lesson you transmitted to your children?
You grow with quality. This is my gospel. Even when we look around us, we understand that the companies that have grown out of proportion are those that build a quality relationship with the consumer, never a fraudulent one. The consumer in the end seeks you when he realizes he can trust you.
How do you eat the tarallo?
I’m the first one to taste the new products before they are put on the market. The tarallo is a snack, when it’s important, you bring it to the table in the bread basket. One braid with a slice of speck and a good wine are the best.
Why did you choose “Ce’ Tarradd” as brand name for your taralli?
In Canosa we say this when we taste a particularly good product: “Ah ce’ Taradd”! We have a wonderful dialect I do not see why we should not use this advantage. Now we’re launching two new products, we’ll call them “Ce’ crek” and “Ce’ stuzz”.
What do you want to do when you grow up? What is there beyond?
There are many other products that are part of the basket of our Apulian tradition. I’m thinking about the orecchiette that everyone recognizes as typically Apulian or the friselle. I am a person who likes to take on new challenges and if I decided to try it, I would always do it differently, differentiating from competitors.