Our last trip took us to closely discover a reality that we wanted to share with you since ages: the Friultrota company and its delicious products.
In San Daniele of Friuli, in an area that seethes with ham factories, there’s a plant that proudly stands out for its typology, showing at the entrance not a pork thigh but a modern wrought-iron fish sculpture. Its main product is known everywhere as “La Regina di San Daniele” (The Queen of San Daniele), and in the matter of celebrity it doesn’t envy at all its fellow citizen ham. That company precisely is Friultrota, which we visited for you and now we’re pleased to tell you.
The history of this company, and of the family that gave birth to it, is more than ever characterized by that healty craziness and that courage that bring to follow one’s own passions even when the wisdom says to let them go… but, at the showdown, it’s the glaring proof that the hard work, when it’s based on a deep and strong passion, fully pays off.
Giuseppe Pighin, founder of the company and father of the current owner Mauro, wasn’t a well-learned man – as it usually happened at his time – but he was extremely clever. He was curious and had a lot of innovative ideas, that he often followed even if who knew him called him crazy – until when all of them had to change their mind and give him credit for his far-sightedness.
At the beginning, the family business had nothing to do with fish farming: indeed it used to deal with gravel and concrete, and it mainly took place in a quarry located on the river Tagliamento. Little by little, by constantly digging, they formed a small lake where Giuseppe put some trouts, that he later started to raise and fish as a personal pleasure.
Since the fishes began to grow in size and number, in the Seventies the Pighin family tried to sell them on the fresh market, but they were forced to stop because their way of raising the animals – very “domestic” and regardless of the costs – brought them to lose money.
At the end of the Seventies, for a series of accidental coincidences that, in retrospect, have been providential, they met a person who was fond of fish processing and a chef who had been a pioneer in smoking salmon, and who wanted to try with trouts. Relying on their enthusiastic comments and on those of who tasted their fishes and claimed that their quality was definitely superior to the one of other trouts that they previously tried, the members of the family decided to permanently abandon the work at the quarry and to dedicate themselves to the farming and processing of trouts – choosing to follow what they were fond of, despite the uncertain perspectives.
As complete self-taught apprentices, Giuseppe and his sons started to experiment fish preservation, following their own intuitions, without choosing paths well-trodden by others but venturing into that field in a totally empirical way. Their first “laboratory” was an aunt’s cellar, then they moved to a train carriage internally covered with stainless steel. The sons were guinea-pigs: every experiment they approved was put forward to the public.
The main processing method they used was smoking, but in that way their trouts found themselves in competition with salmon – which at that time was still of excellent quality since it wasn’t an industrial product.
In 1984, despite all the people who told them they were crazy, the Pighin’s took up the gauntlet and started the current Friultrota company. At that moment, thanks to all the experiments and collaborations previously made, they already had the necessary expertise in order to perfectly know what they wanted and how to achieve it – for exemple, their smoking cells have never been the “standard” ones suggested by the suppliers, but they were custom-made based on their needs.
This was for sure a strong point of the company, while the second fundamental one is certainly the quality that from the beginning characterized their farming: indeed it is a low-density breeding (15kg of fish per cubic meter, which is even lower than the standard of the organic production), realized without force-feeding and with good fodder, and respectful of the natural growth time of the animals.
Even the quality of water is vital, because the trouts need it to be extra pure: in this geographical area there luckily is resurgence water, which is taken from the river Tagliamento with a system of canals and goes straight to the farming.
The fish is then fished with non-invasive methods (using a small net which is casted into the water when needed) around two or three times a week, and afterwards it’s immediately butchered in special facilities located next to the lakes, so that it can arrive very soon and already gutted in the close plant where it’s going to be processed.
A vital thing, in this series of steps from the fishing to the final processing, is the speed – less time passes from the first step to the last one, more the fat of the fish maintains its quality and better will be the resulting product. Moreover, in the processing it’s always observed the cold chain: all the operations – cutting, boning, salting, possible spicing – are hand-made in rooms where the temperature doesn’t exceed 12/14 Celsius degrees.
The timing of the different steps, like for exemple the salting or the smoking, aren’t fixed but they change based on the characteristics of fish, like the size or the quantity of fat – this means that every detail is carefully assessed and supervised by staff people provided with a huge experience about. The business is therefore a completely artisan one, so the processing of fish requires around 4/5 days (on the contrary, the industrial one is executed in 10/12 hours). Moreover, as a choice Friultrota doesn’t use colouring nor preservatives… and the final quality of the product fully testifies that all of this attention makes a difference!
In the course of time, for market requirements they included also other kinds of products, such as smoked salmon and chicken breast, trout eggs, herring… always with an innovative point of view. This last kind of fish, for exemple, is processed salting and smoking it less than the classic one (that’s why it’s been called “Aringa Sciocca” – “Bland herring”), and it’s been released from tradition – which consigned its use in the Easter period – making it a product suitable all year long, even during summer – matched, for exemple, with rocket and green apples.
Friultrota series offer a very wide choice of products, for people who love good fish and at the same time love the convenience of ready-for-use dishes – indeed their products are sold already ready for eating them, even if they can be further elaborated (maybe using the recipes that can be found on their website) by whom would like to create delicious dishes.
Their fishes have good full taste, they can be easily distinguished, some are stronger while other more mellow, with such a soft consistency that it melts in your mouth, and their excellence is now multi-awarded.
At this point, all you can do is try them… you can find them at the shop La Delizia, in Russi (Ravenna), so we wait for you!