There is a place in St. Louis, Missouri where salumi is king. Within its complex there are more than 300 different types of the Italian cured meat products made, with all the traditions of heritage and craftsmanship still in place—and with “love and time” invested to ensure quality and perfection. Volpi Foods is located in one of the most iconic Italian-American places in the country, on “The Hill” where immigrant families gathered more than 100 years ago to begin to make their mark on the new world.
If the salumi is king, then Lorenza Pasetti is undeniably queen. She’s the grandniece of John Volpi, the original settler and salumi-maker, and the daughter of Armando Pasetti, who was brought over from Italy at age 14 to learn the business. With a combination of passion and solid business sense, Lorenza is leading the company into an unprecedented era of success, and breaking the mold for both salami and female-owned companies in the process.
Chief Commercial Officer Tim Urban, who works with Lorenza on business development strategies, says, “Lorenza is by far the most astute business person I’ve ever met.“ He adds, “She’s insightful and spot on. She knows two years out what’s going to happen. She’s the reason we’re growing now.”
The quality of their salumi (which is a “catchall term” for all of their cured meat products) is another reason for the company’s growth. They are the largest producer of prosciutto in the United States, with their signature gold foil wrapped packages going out to delis and restaurants en masse from the production site in St. Louis. And don’t even get them started on the culatello, which is a prime product that is highly sought after by high-end chefs and referred to as “the heart of the prosciutto.” It’s a product so in-demand that it has to be pre-ordered to get your hands on it!
This fourth generation family business has succeeded by looking at past, present and future. The past is crucial—they still use the drying caverns located under the streets of St. Louis, where hand stuff, hand tied meats spend time curing to their delectable best. They still check the progress of the proscuitto curing process by using a pick made from horse bone pick, just like the Romans used to do (the bone does not retain the scent, allowing a master to repeatedly check hundreds of hanging proscuitto quickly). They value their heritage, with constant reminders and photos of their earliest days on display.
As for the present, they maintain high standards and ensure fresh meat by buying Midwest-sourced Duroc hogs bred specifically for this. They get primal cuts in fresh—in a beat-the-industry-standard 72 hours from slaughter to delivery. As Lorenza says, “You have this long curing process, so you want to start out with the freshest meat possible.”
They also look to the future, with Lorenza’s children learning the business. They’ve expanded into a third facility, giving them Uno, Due, and now Tre to fill with salami, mortadella, pepperoni, coppa, pancetta and so many more Italian cured specialty meats.
Through it all, quality of the product comes first. Lorenza and her father (who at 90 years of age still comes into his office in the Volpi store on The Hill every day) walk the entire facility every Sunday. Mr. Armando, as he is respectfully known, dons a jacket and gets behind the counter of the original store to slice the meats to the perfect thickness. It’s there where the everyday consumer can stop in to pick up sausage, cheese, olives, crackers, and more—in fact, everything you need for an authentic Italian experience at home!
It’s a family business that supplies the world with salumi, growing their company into the number one brand in specialty foods. As Urban says, “Any person who’s part of the Volpi family really feels like every single item that comes out is coming from our heart.” Adds Lorenza, “We want everybody to be eating Volpi salami!”
Some level of compensation was received for this story.