Giuseppe Grasso, and a passport for cows

Giuseppe Grasso is my trusted – thoroughly Sicilian – meat purveyor. Our deliberately chosen relationship has matured in just a few months since our very first encounter in the summertime, or, as Giuseppe says, our first “clash.” He telephoned me one day, out of the blue, to arrange an appointment. As soon as we sat down, I asked him what products he had to offer me, and at what price. Immediately I sensed him tense at my brash questions, and he responded – offended – that he wasn’t a butcher in search of vendors, but a purveyor (note that he graduated in Economy and Commerce), that had a very personal and clear philosophy to share with me.

We began to talk. Our conversation explored the dry-aging process, which is used very rarely here in Sicily, and its ability to render meat more digestible and better tasting through a process of maturation given the quality of the animal – raised with extreme care and attention. After just a few days, I went to find him at his estate in Vizzini. It wasn’t long into the visit that I confirmed Giuseppe Grasso – like me – to be a great defender of “Project Sicily”, as we say, which maintains that things can, in fact, be done as they always have been, without alteration.

The nature of a product is the base of every dish’s excellence. So this was why Giuseppe Grasso wanted to start a conversation about collaborating; our vision was one in the same. The genuineness of his meat is the very reason that it becomes protagonist in the plates of my restaurant. Furthermore, we explored the possibility of creating a cow “ID card”: an informational tech sheet for each butchered animal that beholds the requisite legal information along with precious tidbits and stories that could only be offered up by the purveyor, all defending and promoting transparency towards the consumer. This passport, if you will, indicates sex, age, geographical place of birth, breed, father, mother, type of pastures grazed, how much grass he or she ate, types and quantities of grain (barley, fava beans, oats, straw and hay), water intake, date butchered and, finally, length of dry-aging. In result, a thorough profile is realized – just another way of doing justice to the work of a purveyor and the individuality of a specific ingredient. Endorsing product quality is an advantage that should never be underestimated as it that serves to close the gap between farm and table and rediscover the genuine flavors that we, in Sicily, are so fortunate to have at our fingertips.