BURRILLVILLE - Once the epicenter of a bustling textile industry, the village of Pascoag is now known for its historic charm and tranquil downtown Riverwalk. However, at Daniele Foods, a family-owned business that specializes in dry-cured meats, there are signs that its tenure as a hotspot for commerce is not over.
For the second year in a row, Daniele Foods, which operates on Davis Drive in Commerce Park, has been named the winner of the national Good Food Award for its local line of artisan charcuterie. The Good Food Award recognizes American food producers, and the farmers who provide the ingredients, for promoting craftsmanship and sustainability in the industry, supporting local agriculture, and helping to build strong communities.
Created by Daniele's resident salumiere Enrico Porrino, this year's winner, Juniper Berry and Pinot Noir salami, took first place in a blind taste test conducted by 225 of the nation's top chefs and food critics.
"We are very excited by the national recognition," said Davide Dukcevich, co-owner of Daniele Foods along with his brother Stefano. "We are excited that people outside of our region and outside of our state have recognized that Rhode Island is capable of excellence."
Porrino said he developed the recipe after taste-testing several combinations of wines and herbs. "I decided juniper berries and Pinot Noir made the best marriage," said Porrino. "This salami embodies classic Italian flavors, reminiscent of cuisine enjoyed in the Italian Alps."
Dukcevich said he is proud of the creative flavor experimenting going on at the Daniele facility, and said it reflects the open-mindedness coupled with the traditional commitment to quality that is unique to American culinary arts. "The juniper berry and Pinot Noir combination is unique, for sure, but I think that it speaks to the type of innovation and creativity that is the zeitgeist in American culinary arts."
He added, "In Italy, and in Europe in general, they are bound by tradition. But in America, we are more open-minded about exploring and mixing flavors, even unique and sometimes oddball ingredients. Everything is on the table."
Dukcevich noted that the award-winning product was made with hogs raised at Blackbird Farm in Smithfield. Daniele Foods also partners with other farms in Rhode Island to secure quality meats, including Timberstone Farm in Coventry.
"I think it's very important that this award recognizes food producers who work with local farmers," said Dukcevich. "The farmers are the ones holding firm when they could make more money by selling their land. They are the ones who work hard and are committed to the tradition of nourishing our communities."
Daniele Foods opened in Rhode Island in 1976, the year Davide and Stefano's father immigrated to the United States from Trieste, Italy, where his Croatian parents had settled after World War II. Dukcevich said his father chose the rural, northwest corner of Rhode Island to continue the charcuterie enterprise begun by his own parents in Italy because of its proximity to New York and Boston, and for its secluded and clean environment.
"The fact is, we need a place like Pascoag to produce quality charcuterie. There is a French term for the need for a certain type of soil to produce grapes for quality wine. It's called 'terroire.' The clean, fresh air in rural Pascoag is our terroire," said Dukcevich. "You can't produce our prosciutto and salami in a city; it's too polluted. You need the type of air you can only get in a place like Pascoag."
Dukcevich said Daniele also benefits from its proximity to the vibrant restaurant scene in Providence, where the chefs are known to experiment and inspire. "The restaurants in Providence and throughout Rhode Island are wonderful laboratories for innovation," Dukcevich said. "It's amazing that in our tiny way that we can contribute to the Rhode Island brand that says we, as a state, are high quality."