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Products of Puglia in Santa Barbara
The Pugliese-American sisters behind Le Sorelle are not only importing quality foods from Italy, they’re importing their heritage by Michael Aushenker
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Santa Barbara (California). “Le Sorelle” family photo of Donatella (left) and Anna (right) with their mother, Marcella, and Anna's son, Aurelio, in front of one of the tables loaded with traditional Pugliese food.
Photo courtesy of Jenny Nelson

It’s a wet evening along Yanonali’s winery row. As happy hour packs tasting stops to the gills, a private celebration envelops Santa Barbara Winery.

Inside, enormous wine barrels loom over an ochre-tinted scene as Gris, SBW’s adorably plump house cat, pads around the vast room as attendees partake in salads and reds.

The occasion: the first anniversary of Le Sorelle, a Santa Barbara-based importer of products from Puglia, a peninsula town in Italy’s most southern region. Anna Carla Lopez-Carr and Donatella Lorenzoni-Lopez, the siblings behind Le Sorelle (Italian for “The sisters”), grew up summering at their mother’s ancestral town.

Part pat on the back, part product line demonstration, this party’s mission is two-fold: let’s celebrate, let’s strut our stuff. Buffet highlights include fresh dip made from Terra Rubra artichokes; salad incorporating Terra Rubra semi-sundried tomatoes; organic orecchiette covered in mozzarella. An edamame-resembling pasta salad is made of Sabatelli Foglie d’Ulivo (olive tree leaf).

What does all this food – whipped up by Santa Barbara caterer The Jolly Bros – have in common (deliciousness notwithstanding)? They incorporate Le Sorelle products. Yes, even a scrumptious icing-topped lemon cake (which elsewhere would’ve been of the crappy, store-bought variety) contains Adamo extra virgin olive oil, an unadulterated olio santo made old school-way in Puglia.

According to the sisters, Adamo is the real deal, as 70 percent of extra virgin on supermarket shelves – even Italian imports – is adulterated. Guest Andy “The Singing Chef” Lorusso says he only uses Le Sorelle olive oil at home. “It’s like a prime sirloin steak”, he says.

I’m very proud of them and it’s very emotional for me to see our heritage is here and how they wanted to honor it”, says glowing mom Marcella Lorenzoni-Lopez of her daughters’ work. Originally from Nicaragua, dad Carlos Lopez also beams proudly.

There’s an implicit understanding”, Anna says of working with her sister. “Nobody else is going to get it like my sister and me”.

Le Sorelle items (which include gluten-free spaghetti, casarecce and fusilli) can be found at Santa Barbara Winery and Grassini Winery while chefs at Bucatini on State Street and Four Seasons’ Bella Vista employ them in their kitchens.

We spoke to Donatella Lorenzoni-Lopez about the business she and Anna launched in 2012 by originally carrying Primitivo.

Greece is the Word: “Puglia, the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot, is much more reminiscent of Greece than to places in Northern Italy. Very Mediterranean. Rocky, limestone soil. Turquoise blue waters. Infinite olive trees that date back to Roman times and still produce beautiful oil. Pugliese cuisine is the quintessential Mediterranean diet: lots of olive oil, fish, vegetables, fresh fruits and nuts. Puglia is a foodie ‘hot spot’ among Italians. Italians often take ‘food vacations’ in Puglia just to enjoy the local cuisine”.

Personal Touch: “We curate our products ourselves. No middle person. No central distributor. The fact that we are both fluent in Italian facilitates a close relationship with all our producers. We take the time to visit and get to know them and their production values before we decide to carry their products”.

Pugliese Power: “Our producers never cut corners with cheap seed or corn oils. In fact, we tell our clients not to toss out that oil; to keep it for adding flavor to salads, soups, or pastas. It’s good stuff!”. 

 

Courtesy of Michael Aushenker and The Santa Barbara Independent, where this article has been previously published

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