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It’s not for nothing that Italian favourites such as lasagne and spaghetti bolognese have topped the UK’s ‘favourite dish’ surveys for generations. From speedy weeknight suppers to low and slow ragu-based dishes bubbling on the stove on weekend afternoons, an Italian-inspired dish is often just what the doctor ordered – comforting, familiar, and usually reassuringly simple.
That’s not to say that Italian cuisine is as cut and dry as the average Joe’s menu would attest. Indeed, there are myriad ways to push the boat out and try something a little different, whether your customers would prefer to keep it safe – in which case, invest in the kaleidoscopic array of high-quality pastas available or provide ingredients for a DIY pesto and pasta sauce – or fancy doing something extra special.
Of course, a well-stocked supply of good quality basics is the cornerstone of any retailer’s Italian offering. Dried – and fresh, if you have refrigerator space – pastas for all occasions are a strong start, and a range of jarred pasta sauces and pestos, antipasti and snacks will stand you in good stead.
Oils and balsamic vinegars are a must, but be considerate of the range now available across supermarkets great and small and be sure to offer something different. There’s a reason why cheap oils are cheap – highly processed, they fail to offer even a hint of what great Italian oils are all about – and why there’s such a wide range of balsamics on the market, so do your research and provide an option for shoppers purchasing for any occasion.
There’s a reason why Italian cheeses have become a mainstay in British households, so building your range to incorporate the classics like Parmigiano Reggiano and Gorgonzola Dolce is a must, but it’s well worth getting hold of cheeses like Taleggio – punchy and creamy, and delicious on pizzas and melted into pasta dishes – for customers keen to try something new.
Delicious, familiar, and offering plenty to explore – it’s time to give Italian cuisine the spotlight (and shelf space) it deserves.
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