Exclusive: Il Mondo Vecchio will close at the end of the month, ceasing its salumi and sausage production

Mark DeNittis 2-thumb-550x412.jpg
Lori Midson
If there's anyone in this city who's become synonymous with salumi and sausages, it's Mark DeNittis, the co-founder of Il Mondo Vecchio, a Denver salumeria and production plant that opened in 2009 in a bare-bones industrial building on South Cherokee Street. DeNittis and his partner, Gennaro DeSantis, quickly generated local and national accolades for their fresh sausages and dry-cured artisan salumi products, many of which are sold at local markets and restaurants run by big-name chefs who have uniformly waxed rhapsodic about DeNittis's handiwork.

It was a success story that made headlines: a scruffy, first-generation Italian-American street-smart kid from Massachusetts who came to Denver and opened the state's first -- and only -- USDA-inspected facility producing dry-cured salumi. And his old-world sausages became the talk of Denver; his pepperoni, especially, exalted to transcendent sticks of pig gold that made even skeptics weep with joy.

DeNittis, it seemed, was destined for global salumi domination.

And then, in August of this year, his livelihood became a focal point for the USDA.

See also:
- Il Mondo Vecchio's Mark DeNittis on fat sausages, scrawny chicken feet and breasts
- Whole hog hoedown with Il Mondo Vecchio's Mark DeNittis: the piggy food porn

"In late August, the USDA came to the plant to discuss our current inventory and how it related to salmonella testing, which is something that we test for anyway -- and have tested for since day one -- and they determined that our production process didn't show proof that the pathogens for salmonella were being properly addressed, that we weren't addressing the steps to kill the pathogens," he explains.

And while he insists that his relationship with the USDA is amicable, even now, he points out that in the three years he's been making salumi, he's never been hit with a violation -- not once. And, he notes, because the products in question are, in fact, dried, the pathogens can't survive.

"We test for pathogens before we ever sell our products, and my records are available for review," he says. "All of our batches are tested by a certified, independent lab, and in the three years of production, there has never been a food-safely violation, issue or complaint. We've always been cleared when it comes to testing."

All of which prompt the question: What the fuck happened? "To our knowledge, we were following regulations and processes, we were making salumi that's fit and wholesome for human consumption, and it was all extensively tested for safety," says DeNittis, adding that the local USDA officials were in agreement with that.

But in August, when his inspector, accompanied by the regional USDA director, dropped in, DeNittis was told that his inventory would be put on retention until further testing could be completed. "They wanted us to do further intensive salmonella testing if we wanted to continue in the same fashion, plus a challenge study that would have included testing for temperature, water levels, listeria, toxins, E. coli -- you name it," says DeNittis. It was either that, he continues, or completely compromise his products. "We had to make a choice to either to do further testing, or add chemical nitrates or nitrites to the products."

Location Info

Il Mondo Vecchio - CLOSED

1174 S. Cherokee St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant


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25 comments
sasha.breeze.e
sasha.breeze.e

Very sad to see Mondo Vecchio close at the end of the month. Love those cured meats.

Foodfox
Foodfox

This is sad to see but doesn't seem like the whole story...if there has been a USDA inspector there why now? And if they are being "shut down" how can they legally still be open for the rest of November selling sausage that is "questionable"? Seems like a sausage cover up to many.

michellebaldwin73
michellebaldwin73

Terrible news. I work at Ghost Plate and Tap and I love pointing out my pal Mark's work on the menu to tourists who love that they can sample cured meat created locally. I know he'll find a new, awesome place in the Denver culinary community, but this is definitely a big loss. 

Gustov
Gustov

Is anyone going to say what many chefs really think about Il Mondo Vecchio?  Mark is a super nice guy and its nice to have a local artisan.  But... with the exception of a few of his varieties, his stuff wasn't great and its overpriced.  I know people will defend to the death the reputation of a local guy, but the truth is the truth as harsh as it may be.

BlackShirtBrew
BlackShirtBrew

@Olivea_Denver agreed 100%. The fundamentals are all wrong. Long live the artisans! Cook/brew free or die!

terrible
terrible

I am not a tin foil hat type of person, but really, this smacks of corruption.  This smacks of the USDA being in bed with some larger competitor who was threatened by MV.

 

Who has ever heard of a regional director dropping in with an inspector? 

 

This begs for an investigative report from a good journalist.

trufflehound
trufflehound

USDA.... You suck.... Mark has had a USDA inspector on site for the last three years, watching him produce...he has had no violations...and your still fucking with him...go fuck with the big company's that continue to kill people with there salmonella, Botchalisim...etc.etc.etc. No you choose to fuck with the small business, that has no record of violation's...he must not be able to contribute to the right lobiest....

Denverfoodrebel
Denverfoodrebel

Governor Hickenlooper, Colorado Representatives, Colorado Senators: pull your heads out of the sand and HELP!  We are all trying to create JOBS, COMMUNITY, and to keep more money LOCAL.  HELP by creating a pathway for artisan producers to ply their trade unburdened by onerous and irrelevant laws rules and policies created BY and FOR mega-producers and giant processors.  Let the people choose what the wish to eat. 

FDA and USDA: you are a blunt instrument; institutionally inelegant and unintelligent.  Our laws support your brutish intervention in our lives--arbitrarily dictating what we can and cannot eat.

This is such a shame on so many levels.

If you are not outraged, you're not paying attention. 

Something must be done.

 

Denverfoodrebel
Denverfoodrebel

Thousands of rounds of ammunition and semi-automatic weapons are seen as less dangerous than dry-cured meats by our politicians here in the Land of the Free.  What a complete farce the USDA is.  There I said it.  YOU ARE A FARCE USDA.  You have become a caricature of yourselves.  Your rules and laws FAIL to stop hundreds and hundreds of food-borne illnesses caused by shit-laden factory food.  FAIL.

You allow pink slime, and yet this guy gets punked???

Cigarettes:  Kill half a million Americans annually; additional cost of health-care for smokers is inestimable: LEGAL.

Alcohol: Kills a quarter of a million Americans annually--contributes to the break-up of families, and is a factor in over half of all DV incidents:  LEGAL.

Handguns: Legal

Semi-Automatic assault rifles: LEGAL.

JamesRugile
JamesRugile

This is really a shame. The chef who taught me all the basics of butchery eight years ago at JWU and who I have had a great respect for ever since. Truly a loss for the Denver charcuterie scene. You'll always have my support Chef!

iwillkeepbuyingit
iwillkeepbuyingit

Go underground Mark! You know you could kill it with your reputation and devotion to your craft. 

lindsaypowers
lindsaypowers

What a travesty. Is this the way to promote innovation is the local food industry? You all have done a fabulous job of providing a high quality product in a much needed market. I hope you will find a way to overcome this obstacle soon.

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

Fuck this crap--good for them for not caving, and I'll gladly patronize whatever they decide to do next.

 

And yes, it would be nice for our Governor and Mayor to intervene, but I'm not holding my breath.

bmelt
bmelt

This is terrible. Working with and for Mark over the past couple of years, I can honestly say that losing a true artist in his field does nothing for the future of our food scene. We'll be seeing you down there over the next couple of weeks Chef.

michaelcasey_4
michaelcasey_4

Devastating blow for the Colorado scene! It would be nice if Mayor Hancock and Governor Hickenlooper could intervene or at least get a reconsideration.

 

There is a great article from the 2007 Fall issue of Gastronimica that everyone should track down and read. It's called "The Salami Maker Who Fought the Law." By Sarah DiGregario, it focused on this issue and should be brought back to limelight! What is happening is bullshit!

d0nn13re
d0nn13re

Wow! I'm so sad to hear Mondo Vecchio will be closing at the end of the month. My thoughts are with you Mondo Vecchio. Stupid USDA.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

Mark and his salumi have been one of the best things about Denver over the last few years; this is a real loss. Everyone get down to the loading dock for the new few weeks before their closing day. Show your support and send Mark off with a fat wallet at least. Good luck in future endeavors!

mobilhomme
mobilhomme

Outrageous. Anytime you hear someone lamenting the factory-ization of America's food, or American's poor eating habits, or the obesity epidemic, you only need to remember four letters: USDA (ok, seven: FDA, too).

Denver Dave
Denver Dave topcommenter

Your tax dollars at work.  I feel so much safer - not.

jennajohansen
jennajohansen

Thank you to Mark and everyone at IMV who made salumi so amazing that I had to move to Denver to be a part of it!! I am proud of all you have done over these years, and THANK YOU for every slice and every stick of delicious meaty goodness. 

FoodScientist
FoodScientist

this is whats killing small business, conform to the mega-producers model of adding chemicals, pay more, or shut down. 

Kenny
Kenny

I'm seriously depressed about this news. Thanks, Mark, for sticking to your principles of offering quality products. 

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

 @Gustov Umm, whose truth are you referring to? You state that many chefs think this, but you don't state what you think or if you are a chef at all or if you have any credentials to back up this opinion. 

 

Do you even know what you are tasting when you eat salumi (and particularly salumi from IMV)? The products at il Mondo Vecchio have no added sodium nitrite, which creates a very distinct flavor that most people associate with cured meats in America. They are also not acidulated, so the tanginess of many over-processed meat products is not there. The products also contain the minimal amount of salt needed to cure the meat, meaning that the finished products are not salt bombs. What you taste is the meat itself, whether pork or beef, a little salt, the bacterial culture that grows naturally and helps preserve the meat, and whatever spices are in the particular product. I have never tasted such pure expressions of meat cured in a natural way as what has been made by IMV.

 

People who have grown used to the ingredients and processes used by larger, more industrial companies may not understand why the meats have the flavor and texture they do, so maybe it's harder to sell sell products that are not loaded with artificial flavors, unneeded sweeteners, chemical preservatives, and way more salt than is needed.

 

But I guess it's easy to toss around baseless accusations and criticisms when you haven't put in the hard work and dedication it takes to make a quality product. Let us know when you are selling something you've made yourself that's even a fraction of a percentage as good as what IMV has offered over the past few years.

knowledge
knowledge

 @Gustov Gustov, I have been making salumi with Mark for over 2 years, I have been in the industry for over 8 years, have a culinary degree, and am finishing my bachelors.   That being said I do have a decent understanding of the various brands of salumi available in the US.  There is not a single other USDA inspected Salumi producer in the US producing the quality of the products that we have been and absolutely nobody doing it with strictly utah sea salt.  I suggest you check your food knowledge...son

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