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UMF#2: Fraboni’s Italian Specialties

On Saturday, August 4th, Urban Market Forage visited Fraboni’s Italian Specialties on Regent Street. Owner Steve Fraboni and guide Lisa Ferin were ready, willing, and able to discuss various aspects of Italian cuisine.

Steve Fraboni is the 3rd generation in the cooking/grocery business. His family ran a Madison restaurant and when their supplier was thinking of closing shop, the Fraboni family took over the business. They needed Italian products for their own business and then expanded rapidly to provide these items for a growing customer base. Steve is a natural storyteller. His childhood memories of hard work in the shop and kitchen were funny and touching. His passion for his work and the products he sells was evident.

Though a relatively small shop, Fraboni’s is packed with an enormous assortment of imported and specialty items. There are also prepared foods and a deli counter that does a very brisk business during lunch hour. The pasta aisle is particularly impressive. There was a long discussion of pasta shapes, the types of sauces to match those various shapes and the different manufacturing methods. Some of Italy’s best quality pastas are shaped using antique bronze molds. The rough surface this method produces allows sauce to adhere to the pasta. Italy has long been faithful to its regional specialties and certain pasta shapes, and sauces, are specific to particular parts of Italy.

We made only a cursory stop in the sweets section, but Lisa pulled one of her favorites, Panforte di Siena, from the shelf. This is a sweet dating back to medieval times. It is made with flour, honey, dried fruits and nuts. It is usually served on holidays and special occasions. Steve surprised us by opening the package and slicing it so we could all have a taste (or two). Being so dense, a little goes a long way.

Another impressive selection comes in the Olive Oil aisle. Fraboni’s carries a wonderful selection of not only Italian extra virgin olive oils, but also Greek, Spanish and Palestinian. We got to taste two of the Italian oils to get an idea of the different flavor profiles. That tasting was followed by a delightful, syrupy aged balsamic from Modena. Perfect for berries or ice cream, and the perfect way to bring our afternoon to a close.