An open letter to Mark DeNittis: Why is Il Mondo Vecchio closing?
Earlier this month, I broke the news that Il Mondo Vecchio, Mark DeNittis's artisan sausage plant, would cease production at the end of November. And within minutes of the announcement, you could hear the collective sighs of despair all over the state -- and beyond. When I interviewed DeNittis, he conveyed that while he continues to maintain a solid relationship with the USDA -- the executive department of the U.S. federal government that oversees farming, agriculture and food -- it was, in fact, the USDA that forced him to halt production of his dry-cured sausages.
DeNittis, who points out that his plant has never been hit with a food-safely violation of any kind, was presented with two options from the USDA: undergo further testing of his dry-cured salumi or degrade his sausages by adding nitrates, nitrites or acids. He declined both choices, explaining that further testing would be "prohibitively expensive," while compromising the quality of his sausages would result in a product that he'd no longer stand behind. "I've built my reputation on making artisan sausages using only sea salt -- and I am proud of that," he told me.
The overwhelming response to DeNittis's decision has been positive, with Cafe Society commenters applauding him for refusing to back down. In addition, several stories on other websites have offered their support. But questions remain, at least for some skeptics, including Christian Spinillo, a Lyons resident who cures his own meats at home and is working toward opening a butcher shop and having his own farm.
Spinillo penned a (very long) letter to DeNittis, posing several questions and sharing his concerns surrounding DeNittis's reasons for throwing in the towel. "But what stumps me is how you've handled the recent closing of your company," writes Spinillo. "There are a number of holes I see based on my experience and knowledge - perhaps some transparency that could be provided by you. My main issue comes from the way in which you seem to have been a victim of the USDA regulations."
The thoughtful epistle is posted in its entirety on the following page, and I've also reached out to DeNittis, who assures me that he'll respond. When he does, we'll post his thoughts on the Cafe Society blog. In the meantime, today is the last day of Loading Dock Friday at Il Mondo Vecchio, so if you're hankering for DeNittis's salumi, this is your last chance (at least for a while) to get your fix. It starts at 1 p.m. and will continue until DeNittis has sold the last of his product. My advice? Get down there sooner rather than later.