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Making the most of premium meats

Authenticity, variety and convenience make Italian meats, toppings and specialty sausages an ideal addition to any concept.

Sponsored by Fontanini

Chefs typically seek ingredients for specific menu items like a sandwich, appetizer or pasta dish. But when the product’s really flavorful, consistent and easy to use, they create ways to use it in other dishes. That happens commonly, chefs say, with FONTANINI® Italian Meats & Sausages.

Meatballs purchased for sandwiches and pasta items find their way into soups and onto pizzas before morphing into catering appetizers at Angelina’s Pizza in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. Owner Ann Reichle initially ordered raw bulk sausage to hand-pinch and spread on her pizzas, but she discovered it worked well in calzones and lasagnas.

“Everything we get from Fontanini is used in several different ways,” says Reichle. Whole sausage links purchased for baked sandwiches also are cut into thirds for an eye-catching protein presentation atop plates of pasta. Cut the links into bite-size portions and you’ve got an easy passed appetizer, she adds. “All we do is run the link through the conveyor oven to get it hot and it’s ready go to.”

Easy on the Labor Costs
Ease of use is particularly attractive to Scott Anthony, owner of Punxsy Pizza in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who uses a wide variety of FONTANINI® meats across his menu.

“Skilled labor is a problem for every restaurant, so when we can use precooked items and eliminate food-safety concerns, that’s a plus,” says Anthony, referring to a sausage crumble topping he cross-utilizes on pizzas, and in sauces and sandwiches. “When you’re working with new employees, with precooked you have one less thing to train them.”

When veteran Italian restaurant chef Joe Carlucci learned that buying FONTANINI® fully cooked meatballs improved food safety, he saw them eliminate the labor required to prepare them while boosting product consistency.

“I can make my own meatballs the same, but can everyone who works for me meet that same consistency? No. It just doesn’t happen that way,” says Carlucci, a caterer and owner of Joe’s World-Famous Wood Fired Mobile Pizza in Madison, Alabama. His meatballs make their way into pasta dishes at catered events as well as stuffed into calzones served from his pizza truck. “So, when you taste the FONTANINI® meatballs and they’re like some Italian grandmother’s, you can’t beat that. But just as good, we get consistent quality and prep labor is less.”

Variety on the Menu
As a Bronx, New York, native, Carlucci found a large Hispanic community when he relocated to Alabama about a decade ago. Seeking to serve items that would appeal to the group, he was pleased to learn the FONTANINI® line included a high-quality chorizo offering.

“Honestly, I think it’s second to none, but when you see how Hispanics here love it, that says a lot,” Carlucci says. He uses the chorizo on pizzas and in sandwiches, but also in a pasta dish with caramelized onions, bacon and a cacciatore sauce. “Fontanini’s wide range of flavors and styles open the creative floodgates for me as a chef.”

Anthony uses FONTANINI® oven-roasted and sliced Italian-style beef on pizzas and a variety of hot sandwiches. And despite the somewhat upscale nature of many weddings he caters, guests consistently request Italian beef sandwiches topped with giardiniera.

“I’m thinking, hmm, it’s kind of sloppy, so why eat it at a wedding where you’re all dressed up?” Anthony says. For his own unique twist, Anthony pureed giardiniera and blended it with mayonnaise to create a flavorful aioli to spread on the sandwich bread before topping it with the beef. “At the restaurant, I also use the Italian beef to do a nice flatbread appetizer.”

Precision Portion Control
To control portions and assemble certain dishes quickly, Anthony’s crews use 3-ounce and 4-ounce cups to scoop up precooked meat toppings for pizzas, sandwiches and pasta dishes. Raw toppings, he adds, won’t work for such dishes since they don’t scoop easily.

“Using precooked keeps you another step ahead of the game. It doesn’t shrink when reheating because it’s already cooked,” he says. “It’s also important to customers who want their favorite dishes the same way every time. Precooked makes that easy.”

Reichle says FONTANINI® consistently portioned meatballs make food cost predictable, eliminate waste and lower labor costs. After making an award-winning meatball pizza 20 years ago, sales of the pie were so strong it necessitated one person working 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. to make meatballs. It was a godsend, she recalls, when a pair of Fontanini reps visited Angelina’s to show her their meatballs could eliminate that shift.

“I tasted theirs and they were just like ours: Old World-style meatballs that were just great,” Reichle says. “When something as simple as a premade meatball is more than just a good meatball—it’s a problem solver. That’s when an owner really finds value in a product.”

Easy Flexibility for Non-Commercial Foodservice
Anthony, Carlucci and Reichle suggest other uses for FONTANINI® products in non-commercial foodservice settings:

  • Raw bulk sausage is easily shaped into patties that can be fried for grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches or blended with beef in lasagna in ready-to-eat or take-and-bake formats.
  • Need a quick way to produce a 30-gallon batch of Italian tomato and meat sauce? Anthony says the precooked crumbled beef and sausages are ideal for protein and bulk with ease.
  • Since FONTANINI® meatballs come in multiple sizes, non-commercial operators choose them for a la carte pasta dishes or meat toppings at the pizza station in the cafeteria, as well as sandwiches, soups and appetizers for in-house catered meetings, Reichle says.

Portioned sausage links and rope sausages are handy for bulk prep required in a non-commercial cafeteria. Links are easily par-grilled, broiled or oven baked for quick pick-up on sandwiches or sliced into coins for a quick add to a pasta dish. Rope sausage—a coil of sausage not portioned into links—can be roasted or grilled whole, then portioned.

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