Earlier this week I was disheartened to learn about the imminent closure of Il Mondo Vecchio, an acclaimed Denver, Colorado-area salumeria that has been producing a wide variety of artisanal cured meats—including Italian-style dry sausages and whole muscle salumi—since 2009.
Il Mondo Vecchio’s owner, Mark DeNittis—who’s followed the group I lead, Keep Food Legal, for some time on Twitter—reached out to me about his company’s plight after I tweeted about the pending closure of a Scottish bangery. (I don't know if that's what a Scottish sausage plant is called, but there's no doubt that's what it should be called.)
In the case of the Scottish sausage plant, Freshlink Foods, EU bureaucrats decided that the 30-year-old producer would have to comply with new EU cold-storage regulations.
One plant worker speaking to the British website Food Manufacture—presumably one of the 144 workers who will lose their jobs over the new regulation—characterized the costly new requirement as akin to mandating “a Rolls Royce engine in a Ford Escort.”
Il Mondo Vecchio's problem is a similar one—regulations run amok—according to a release prepared by DeNittis and his co-owner, Gennaro DeSantis, last week.
"In August, the USDA imposed additional requirements on Il Mondo Vecchio’s production methods. After two months of sharing information and collaboration back and forth between Il Mondo Vecchio and the USDA as well as various attempts to modify the production methods," the owners announced, "Il Mondo Vecchio has determined that the impact of the regulatory requirements on dry cured sausage products was detrimental to the quality of the product and therefore, Mark and Gennaro are forced to close the[ir] doors."
This conflict between modern regulations and traditional methods is something DeNittis thought for a time he could navigate.
"We adhere to Old World techniques of natural process while following New World regulations,” Il Mondo Vecchio’s website states.
When it comes to Old World methods, I think it would be hard to find a better example of a traditional, conscientious, sustainable, and local producer than Il Mondo Vecchio.
For example, Il Mondo Vecchio used pigs from Cure Organic Farm in nearby Boulder to make many of its products. Il Mondo Vecchio's website also boasts that it hand crafts salumi from “age old family recipes.” Its products are all natural, “minimally processed, and contain no artificial ingredients.” Il Mondo Vecchio even cares about its salt—obtaining “ancient sea salt from Utah (just west over the Rocky Mountains)” and using “the lowest allowable salt content of today’s producers nationally.”
While he could have altered his recipe—say, by adding nitrates or nitrites—in order to bring Il Mondo Vecchio’s product into compliance with USDA regulations, that would have turned his product into something he wasn't comfortable selling.
"Our name literally means ‘Old World,” DeNittis told me by phone. And how did they cure meat back in the old world? With a discrete, short list of ingredients: “Sea salt, meat, quality spices, and time.”
Paul Cure of Cure Organic Farm tells me the loss of that sense of care and artistry will resonate.
"He's so rare in regards to our area," says Cure. "When he leaves next month it'll be felt for sure. It's an enormous loss for the food community here."
While DeNittis is obviously serious about quality, Il Mondo Vecchio is just as serious about food science and safety.