I have to be honest: when it comes to Italian cuisine, age, and traditions do a lot to catch my interest. I’ve already admitted to being a bit of a food snob, and I still maintain that there are good reasons for moderate-level snobbery. There’s no shame in wanting the best for yourself in exchange for your hard-earned money.
It’s the reason why many of us gravitate toward time-tested products over new ones. It’s particularly true in the case of gourmet products from overseas that are usually higher in price than the local supermarket finds. You want to get your money’s worth when you’re paying more. And considering how rife the Italian food scene is with companies that have been around for centuries, taking a risk with newer ones can be difficult.
Why go with the one that’s been around for less than a quarter of a century when you can go to one that’s been around for 100+ years?
Yet sometimes, there are breakthroughs when a brand comes onto the scene like a storm and establishes itself as a go-to-option for foodies with little else but quality and flavors to offer. Take a blink, and suddenly the newbie is the market leader.
Borgo de Medici turned out to be one such rare breakthrough.
What is the Story Behind Borgo de Medici?
Similar to many Italian food companies, Borgo de Medici started with efforts from one family. The difference is that usually, when we hear that story about established market leaders, the date goes to the beginning of the 20th century and earlier. Borgo de Medici was established in 1999.
The story is simple, really. Massimo Pugi and his family wanted to create a line of authentic gourmet-grade fine Tuscan food. So they established Borgo de’ Medici Delizie Toscane in Prato and got to work. The idea was to bank on high-quality ingredients and local production traditions. Pugi started working with farmers, beekeepers, and artisans that had long been established in the region to bring the experience and traditions of Tuscany to his product assortment.
Even the company’s name was inspired by the idea of creating a unified place for Tuscan food traditions.
Borgo de Medici means “Medici village” in Italian. The story goes that every time the Florentine army under the Medici family rule conquered a village or town, the house symbol was stomped upon the wall. The sign marked the newly conquered land as a “Medici village.”
Pugi takes the old story as inspiration for a “unified assortment.” As every conquered village was a piece of unified Medici land, so every product in his company’s product line-up was an addition creating a unified place for Tuscan food, an ideal Tuscan cuisine “Borgo” if you will.
The Main Focus of Borgo De Medici:
Usually, when a small, family-owned enterprise starts, they focus on one or two products first and then expands its line-up. For example, Matilde Vicenzi began with a few traditional Italian pastries, Michele Balconi started with sponge cakes, and LU began with a few types of cookies and bonbons.
Borgo de Medici was a bit of a different story.
See, when Massimo Pugi started his company, he did so with a plan. He wasn’t interested in becoming famous for a few signature products. He wanted to create a place that unified all necessary elements for authentic Tuscan cuisine. A Borgo of fine foods, if you will.
The company website officially states that its ultimate mission is to “become the leading purveyor of Tuscan fine food in the world.” It’s not about just pasta, olive oil, cookies, or any specific product.
What sets Borgo de Medici apart from many other companies is that they don’t have flagship products, not exactly. Of course, it’s nigh-impossible not to become particularly well-known for certain products, especially when filling a niche that needs filling. It’s much harder to become associated with Extra Virgin Olive Oil unless you’re a company that focuses entirely on putting olive oil on the market. With Borgo de Medici’s expansive line-up, it was inevitable to become more known for certain items than for others.
But in the end, the goal of Borgo de Medici’s founders is to create a go-to space for people in love with Tuscan cuisine and food traditions. From honey and preserves to pasta and sauces to cookies and torrone, everything here is created to reflect the culinary heritage Massimo Pugi has loved all his life.
Where to Start Exploring Borgo de Medici Assortment:
There are upsides to having an extensive product assortment: if you manage to prove yourself to the customer with one product, they will keep coming back to check out the others. If you play your cards right, i.e., offer them a good balance of quality, taste, and price; you can become their go-to brand for almost every product category.
There are also downsides to having an extensive product assortment: namely, the potential customer may get confused about where to start. Especially in a case like Borgo de Medici, with a lower internet presence, a wide assortment that’s easy to get overwhelmed by, and hardly any products the company itself “pushes” as its signature items.
But, no fear! If you wish to get to know Borgo de Medici, then Yummy Bazaar has a few pointers that can direct you:
Borgo de Medici Gift Kits
If Borgo de Medici has items that truly set them apart not only in flavor but in form, it would be the gift kits. As a company focusing on traditional elements of Italian cuisine, most of the items they put on the market are in direct competition with other companies also producing traditional Italian food ingredients.
But the gift kits are a unique product with hardly any direct competition. They’re closer to meal kits in form, with carefully measured ingredients that allow you to easily make traditional Italian dishes at home.
Some examples of Borgo de Medici gift kits include:
- Truffle and Porcini Ravioli Kit - possibly the most luxurious item in their assortment, the truffle and porcini ravioli kit includes carefully measured-out ingredients to make ravioli from scratch. It’s not just frozen ravioli with a sauce packet. It’s wheat flour for the dough, truffle olive oil for the sauce, and porcini seasoning for the filling.
- Crostata Kit - similar to the ravioli kit, the crostata kit includes ingredients required to make the treat from scratch rather than ready-made elements for a 5-minute assembly. It’s premium-quality flour for the tart dough, a cinnamon-sugar blend for flavoring, and a jar of strawberry jam for filling.
- Focaccia Kit - the easiest of all Borgo de Medici kits, it’s a perfect start for newbie bakers to dip their toes in traditional Italian cuisine. The kit contains premium flour and basil-flavored olive oil for the dough and a jar of traditional Pesto Genovese for garnish.
The biscotti cookies (or, as they’re often referred to, cantuccini cookies) are one of the most famous Italian cookies in the world. Traditionally, they’re supposed to be dry and crunchy cookies and liberally studded with almonds (or, more rarely, pine nuts).
Borgo de Medici biscotti cookies go a step further to set themselves apart from competitors. While they (naturally) have the classic crunchy almond cantuccini in their line-up for traditionalists, they also offer a variety with a more novel approach. Their biscotti assortment includes pumpkin spice biscotti cookies, chocolate biscotti cookies, and even biscotti cookies flavored with fruits like lemon and figs.
Torrone Nougat (with Unique Flavors)
Another assortment of traditional treats turned unique with Borgo de Medici’s special touch is torrone - the traditional Italian nougat candy.
Torrone is primarily made with similar base ingredients as Spanish turron: egg whites, sugar, honey, and toasted nuts. But the consistency is usually chewier and stickier than turron’s, and it’s also common to have it flavored with different ingredients like citrus, vanilla, chocolate, etc. In contrast, turron doesn’t contain additional flavorings more often than not.
Aside from typical torrone flavors like plain almond, berries, and lately famous pistachios, Borgo de Medici assortment includes more unique flavors like caramel, tiramisu, and limoncello, giving it at the same time an original but also quintessential Italian flair.
Ever since Ferrero came up with their world-famous Nutella, the race to establish oneself as its primary competitor and take the piece of the hazelnut-cocoa spread craze pie has been fierce among confectionary companies.
At this point, it would be bold to claim that any of them has caught up with Nutella. It might be impossible to do for the foreseeable future. Nutella is just too big a name with too much brand recognition and loyalty.
But some brands manage to establish themselves when adding a unique twist, and that’s what Borgo de Medici has done. Its premier hazelnut spread product isn’t in direct competition with Nutella. It strives to attract attention from those few who like the hazelnut-cocoa combo but isn’t particularly fond of Nutella because, get this, it’s too sweet.
While Borgo de Medici offers a classic choco-hazelnut spread, its most famous sweet spread is extra dark chocolate. It’s a spread with more tempered sweetness, noticeable bitter notes, and nutty elements.
Honey & Preserves
A more of a traditional assortment, this one is. The collection mainly consists of traditional flavors of classic Tuscan Millefiori (flower) honey, acacia honey, and chestnut honey, along with fruit jams and preserves (primarily figs).
But that’s not to say that there are no unique products you’d be hard-pressed not to pay attention to. For example, the honey assortment includes jars with fried figs preserved in honey, while the jams have a unique peach-and-amaretti-cookies combo.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Another traditional product, with this Borgo de Medici, can do little else but bank on the fine quality of the ingredients and traditional production methods.
There are no embellishments to find with this one, and perhaps, that is precisely why it deserves attention. It’s simple unrefined extra virgin olive oil made from locally grown olives, not treated with chemicals or altered by temperature.
Just a classic, slightly spicy, slightly fruity flavor with moderately bitter, grassy, and buttery undertones. Which flavor notes are emphasized in any given batch depends on the olive harvest of a given year.
Not to be confused with classic Balsamic Vinegar, Balsamic Glaze is a thicker and sweeter condiment used for - you guessed it - giving any given product (mostly meat, poultry, and fish) a bright and shiny finish and creating a more complex flavor profile in the dish by adding sweet yet slightly sour flavor notes.
Or, to put it simply, Balsamic glaze is essentially a balsamic vinegar reduction. Borgo de Medici adds more of a complex flavor profile to its balsamic glazes, augmenting the flavor with other elements like truffles and figs.
Spiced Red Wine Vinegar
Another Tuscan cuisine classic with a bit of a twist. Red wine vinegar is frequently used for salad dressings, pickling solutions, and marinades for various meat cuts, mainly pork and beef.
It has a full-bodied, punchy flavor with a nice tartness and a bit of spiciness to it.
Borgo de Medici Agresto Tuscan Vinegar is additionally flavored with garlic, shallots, and honey. Aging with other ingredients for months allows the vinegar to absorb the flavors and create a more complex flavor profile that gives extra depth to the dishes it’s utilized with.
Overlooked Darling: Rolled Wafers with Cream Filling
This one is a bit outside the box, mainly because when one thinks of traditional Italian cookies, rolled wafers usually don’t even break the top 10 of the things that come to mind.
If anything, in the modern foodie world, cream-filled rolled wafer treats are primarily associated with America! Arguably, nowadays, the most famous rolled wafer treat is Pirouline, developed by Peter DeBeukelaer between 1978 and 1984.
However, rolled wafer cookies have a long history in Europe! There’s even a traditional Spanish rolled wafer cookie called Barquillo (spn. “little boat”). While Barquillos are usually much larger than most industrialized rolled wafer cookies and hollow to boot, there are more than enough similarities between the two treats to accept them as pre-cursor to modern rolled wafer cookies.
Notably, Spain isn’t the only country that has loved rolled wafer tubes for a long time; just the one that has stuck by them most ardently. The treat became a common addition to upper-echelon parties in the renaissance era, mainly in Dutch, Germany, France, and - you guessed it! - Italy!
So, in a bit of a roundabout way, rolled wafer cookies are one of the most traditional Italian cookie varieties around. And Borgo de Medici does its best to do them justice, combining the classic thin, light, and crunchy wafers with the modern element of smooth, moderately sweet creamy filling that the wafers are primarily associated with today.
So the next time anyone tries to make a point of rolled wafers not being traditional Italian cookies, bust out a can of Borgo de Medici rolled wafers and this piece of trivia.
And enjoy them with a cup of coffee (or tea) like a true renaissance-period Italian aristocrat.
Check Out Yummy Bazaar’s Online Italian Grocery Store for More Premium Italian Products!
Yummy Bazaar hosts one of the largest assortments of authentic gourmet-grade Italian sweets in our online Italian grocery store. Explore the snack, pastry, and sweets collections to discover a vast array of premium options. Like chocolates from some of the biggest brands in the world, like Perugina and Venchi, a wide variety of snack cakes and rolls, classic Italian torrone nougat candies with flavors ranging from classic almond and chocolate to various unique options like strawberries, sour cherries, rum-raisin, tiramisu, etc. and, of course, an extensive collection of authentic Italian cookies from brands like Mulino Bianco, Balconi, Matilde Vicenzi, and more!
Image sources: all images taken from the official Borgo de Medici website and FB page.