Escape Artists

Natural Foods in Cremona

“Our food is a national treasure,” Angelo Marazia told me recently on a warm, rainy afternoon in the lovely town of Cremona.  I nodded in agreement, remembering the many Italian meals I’d enjoyed, as I sipped a caffe lungo at the bar in the Piazza del Comune. Angelo told me of his passion for food and vision for Forma Naturae, the food education and distribution business he started with his friend, Antonio Lezzi. “I wanted to make our food available to everyone—from the best producers in Italy.”

Angelo Marazia and Antonio Lezzi Founders of Forma Naturae Angelo Marazia and Antonio Lezzi Founders of Forma Naturae

The movement for pure, locally produced, natural foods is probably more of an obsession in Italy than in in the U.S.  Through Forma Naturae, Angelo wants not only to bring the finest foods from all regions of Italy to homes and restaurants, but to educate on food production. “We explain production from field to plate—through the voices of the growers and producers themselves,” he continued.  Appreciation for the work and care that goes into making fine foods is felt passionately in Italy, as many Italians fear fast food and globalization that threaten their food heritage.

The products of Forma Naturae are from all over Italy and made by small growers and producers using natural methods. “Each region has its own specialties” Angelo explained, “I try to find something unique or unusual to include.”  Along with the basics–wines, pasta, olive oil and sauces—you will find novelties such as liqueur of myrtle and liqueur of wild fennel, Sicilian prickly pear jam, jelatine of nero d’avola and cotechino, a relative of salami that requires cooking.  I also found many of my favorite appetizers with an unusual twist: artichokes in orange juice, caponata all messinese, artichokes in ricotta sauce and salami alla Cremona. Many of the foods are from Angelo’s native Puglia, but Basilicata, Lombardy, Sicily and Campania are well represented. “Through my old job, I came to know many small food producers through Italy,” Angelo explained.

Beautiful opera house in Cremona's city center Beautiful opera house in Cremona’s city center

All of Forma Naturae’s products can be ordered in Italy and throughout Europe through the web site but unfortunately, those of us in North America are left out. “We’re working on getting an export license for the U. S.” Angelo explained, “but it may take a while. But we also offer food and wine tours and sell to many restaurants in Cremona and throughout Italy.” So for now, Americans can take a tour, spend the day observing and learning about regional food and wine production in Italy, and the evenings savoring delicious meals.

After all this talk of food, I couldn’t wait to try it and that evening, Angelo and his wife Marta brought me to Osteria del Melograno, a local favorite in Cremona. There, chefs Fabio Triacchini and Simone Arcari made a special meal that starred many of Forma Naturae’s specialties, beginning with (along with a bottle of Selvarossa Riserva) Cremona salami, provolone with nero d’avola cream, and pear citrus marmalade. We moved on to the primi piatti: croccette di ceci, risotto gorgonzola and marubini, a pasta specialty of Cremona and finally the secondi, pork in licorice sauce with croccette di patate. And even though I complained that I couldn’t eat another thing, Fabio brought me desert, a cheesecake with caramelized figs and a digestivo, a passito venete – all Forma Naturae products, of course–which I had no trouble finishing.

Chefs Fabio Triacchini and Simone Arcari Chefs Fabio Triacchini and Simone Arcari

As I strolled back to my hotel that night, though the streets of the centro storico of Cremona, I thought of Angelo’s words earlier in the day and how lucky I was to have so fully enjoyed Italy’s national treasure – bella Italia!

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