Cured for What Ails You

Those sad slices of pepperoni on pizza would give anyone the blues. If you're craving authentic Italian dry-cured meats, you'll find your fix in a surprising place.



Photography by Reena Bammi

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In the sleepy backwoods of Pascoag, an unlikely thing exists: a prosciutto factory. The headquarters of Daniele, Inc. were built in 1977, when Vlado Dukcevich, ambitious scion of an Italian salumeria, came to Rhode Island to continue his family’s legacy. For the past thirty years, the company has been quietly making some of the best Italian cured meats in the country.

Quietly, because Vlado has the caution borne of immigrants. His parents were forced to flee their ancestral home in Croatia during World War II. With nothing except their two young children, they settled in Trieste, an Italian port just across the Croatian and Slovenian border, and learned to make sausages to earn a living. As the years passed, they honed their expertise, eventually sending Vlado to study with master prosciutto makers in Parma. By the time Vlado was married with young children, he wanted to expand the family business abroad. The United States was a logical new market, but the ban on imports from Italy in those days meant he would have to go to the country himself.

“In Italy, we have more prosciutto factories than inhabitants,” jokes Vlado, who retains a strong Italian accent and a courtly manner. “Here, no one had heard of it. But the American consumer has a deep desire to learn—not like us Italians, who think we know everything. In the United States, if you are good at something, you can go all the way.”

It was a tough sell at first, convincing buyers that people would want traditional Italian products. Italian enclaves on Federal Hill and in Boston, Brooklyn and Manhattan were his first markets. As the years went by, Vlado expanded the line, offering mortadella, pancetta and salami. Unlike his competitors, he stayed true to the traditional method of air-drying the meat rather than taking the less expensive shortcut of cooking it and using fillers like dried milk, corn syrup and MSG.

As America’s interest in traditional butchering has grown, so, without fanfare, has Daniele. The company now owns three buildings: the original prosciutto factory, a salami factory and a plant for making panini rolls, pepper shooters and other modern spins on the classics. But few people in Rhode Island know it exists, and the family has always avoided publicity. So why allow me in? Give credit to Vlado’s son Davide, who now runs the company with his brother, Stefano.

 - June, 2008

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