IN CONVERSATION WITH: PAOLO MONTANARO OF TARTUFLANGHE
It seems only fitting that the first smell Paolo Montanaro remembers was that of truffles. The Montanaro family's roots in Alba stretch back generations, and the pioneering footsteps of his mother Domenica (also known as "The Truffle Lady") and father Giuseppe (Da Beppe) into the truffle world cemented their status as one of Italy's most revered truffle enterprises. As the president of TartufLanghe, Paolo has translated the family's reputation for sourcing Alba's best truffles into an international network boasting some of the world's top Michelin-starred destinations. As their dedicated sales partner in the US, Mad Rose Specialty Foods has been importing fresh white and black truffles with weekly deliveries from Alba. We sat down with Paolo to learn more about the TartufLanghe difference.
What is your first memory of truffles?
I was literally born around truffles as my parents ran a restaurant from 1968 to 1982 in Alba called Da Beppe – a beloved destination for truffle lovers. I was born in September of 1976 at the beginning of the truffle season … I can honestly say that the scent of truffles is one of the first smells I encountered and it continues to be one of the most familiar one to me. After the restaurant experience, my parents opened TartufLanghe to sell fresh truffles; I was a child but I soon started to get in touch with the business by getting to know the truffle hunters and the first importers that came to buy our truffles.
What makes some white truffles better than others?
Tartuflanghe specializes in the Alba white truffle: the species Tuber Magnatun Pico which grows exclusively in Southern Piemonte, in the so-called Langhe, Monferrato and Roero hill areas. It is a small triangle of territory in South Piemonte made up of hills where we harvest this exclusive variety – in the center of the triangle there is Alba. What makes the Alba Truffle special and better than others is its quality: the smell, so delicate and complex at the same time, made up of thousands of different scents (a bouquet reminiscent of honey, garlic, hazelnut, artichoke, mushroom and underwood) and the smooth peel, with its unique golden color.
What makes Piedmont the truffle capital of the world? Why are TartufLanghe’s truffles the best?
Because in our region, thanks to its unique microclimate, a perfect mix of humidity and sun and a specific composition of the soil, the white truffle finds its best habitat to grow and develop its best characteristics.
Our special selection is the result of years of work in our tartufaie, the truffle woodlands where we harvest the white truffle. In our private forests, we constantly take care of the trees and the soil with agricultural practices that enhance white truffle growth, not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of quality. For instance, by keeping the woods clean, by distancing the trees (oak trees, willows, hazelnut, linden etc.), we allow the sun to the enter into the woods which helps the truffle grow. In the spring, we dig into the ground and remove stones to make the soil very soft to allow the truffles to grow and develop a nice round shape with a very smooth and velvety peel.
Our tartufaie are also constantly monitored by experts of the agricultural and botanical universities we collaborate with so that all parameters of the weather, tree growth and soil (with its good bacteria and musks) are recorded and studied. This ongoing research and compilation of scientific data that we have been making for 30 years in the same woodlands will help us further understand the secrets of truffle growth. We have to remember that the white truffle is rare because it is spontaneous mushroom. However, we can now say, after years of research that we can somewhat cultivate the white truffle by enhancing and creating the perfect conditions and ideal habitat it needs. The more we know about this, the better.
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