Market data reports have been buzzing with information on how North Americans are expanding their flavor palettes and have acquired the taste for more 'exotic' food. The term, however, is often misused exclusively for spicier food coming from regions in Asia or Africa.
According to Filippo Lubrano, the 32-year-old COO and co-founder of Italian startup Eattiamo, the boot-shape peninsula also has a lot of culinary goodness undiscovered by most American consumers. “Most of us, what we have in common is that we were living abroad,” Lubrano said about the four Italian co-founders. “And it was very difficult to find good, authentic Italian products.”
This issue prompted Lubrano, along with CEO Nicholas Figoli, CFO Francesco Pelosi, and CTO Simona Morachioli, to start the service Eattiamo, which is a play on the English word "eat" and the Italian conjugation -iamo, to mean "we eat." Under the direction of General Manager Pietro Guerrero, the company curates and delivers a selection of under appreciated Italian products to both the curious North American foodie as well as the forlorn Italian expat longing a taste of home.
From artichoke cream to big wheels of pasta
The term “Italian Food” isn’t sufficient to describe the culinary diversity of the nation, Lubrano said—cuisine is broken down by region, such as Umbrian, Abruzzese, or Neapolitan. What Eattiamo offers is a box of packaged goods from artisanal, small-batch makers from a specific region, which changes every month.
The products offered also go beyond pesto sauce and dried fusilli. “We wanted to mingle more familiar Italian products, fine versions of them, with lesser known ones,” Lubrano said. For example, this month’s box, themed to Liguria, the hometown and stomping grounds of the founders, has artichoke cream, rosemary salty biscuits, olive paté, and trofie pasta. The products are easy to find in their homeland, but their experiences abroad showed that it wasn’t easy to come across the selection elsewhere.
With the help of employee Francesca Marchini, their well connected product manager who graduated with a B.S. in Gastronomy at the renowned Slow Food University of Pollenzo, the team can locate obscure artisan producers throughout the country.
“It’s only for the American market, but it’s been a big hit in Italian media,” Lubrano said. The team is credited by Tuscan media for introducing the local specialty testaroli, a big wheel of pasta that is sliced into bits in boiling water, to the states. “It was a headline in a local paper, something like ‘Testarolo goes to America,’” Lubrano laughed.
More than a subscription box
After growing under the guidance of Italian food accelerator H-Farm when it was established a year and a half ago, the team looked westward and came across the New York-based Food-X accelerator while browsing online.
“The idea started as a marketplace of a marketplace, we wanted to use our network to introduce fine Italian products,” Lubrano said of the original idea. “But we found it difficult to build awareness on real Italian artisanal products.”
To the team’s dismay, they even found out that most products sold in stores like Eataly came from companies and manufacturers in the US. When they learned about the opportunity to be in New York through Food-X, the team jumped on it. Today, they are one of the nine cohorts for 2016 selected out of around 400 applicants, and they are the first Italian company to do so.
It was during their time with Food-X that they started to better develop a subscription model, while still keeping an online store for consumers to buy the products anytime. “We wanted the website to be as user friendly as possible,” Lubrano said. “We want our products to reach everyone, even the very old people.”
A one-time order costs $69. The price per box, which the company said is worth $130, becomes cheaper the more months a customer subscribes. Subscribers for three months can enjoy the goods for $59 per box, while six month subscribers get it the cheapest for $54.
Lubrano also emphasized that it tackled another issue the team noticed in artisanal Italian products. “Most of our producers are very small, family-run businesses, they’ve done this for generations, and are very good at what they do,” he said. “But many also won’t go out of their comfort zone and sell online or try to reach a global audience. We’ve learned from our producers in Italy that they very much appreciate our company. To them, it’s a big opportunity.”