If you’re like me, then you’ve probably seen the Daniele Foods label in your local deli case countless times, but never realized that it’s locally made. The company has been family owned and operated for three generations. It has roots in Italy, where the grandfather of current owners Stefano and Davide Dukcevich began selling sausage their grandmother made in her kitchen. The original product was a paprika-spiced salami with its roots in Croatia, from whence the family migrated to Italy. Stefano and Davide’s father came to America in 1976 and established Daniele, Inc in Pascoag. Now the president and sales manager respectively, the two brothers continue to produce Italian-style sausages and charcuterie out of the same plant in which they played hide-and-seek as kids... for now.
While the original Daniele factory remains a beloved site within their family, it was built and added on to several times over several decades, and as a result can no longer efficiently manage their production. (It does, however, manage to house a quarter of a million individual legs of prosciutto. Seriously, have you ever seen that much prosciutto in person? I can assure you it’s awe-inspiring.) After courting offers to foot the bill for a new plant from states like Virginia and Texas, the Dukcevich brothers decided to break ground on a $50-60 million state-of-the-art facility right down the street from their current home. “We did a lot of soul searching,” says Davide. “Do we want to invest this much? It’s scary because we’re a family – we’re not a multinational corporation.”
With the new plant set to come online sometime in mid-2014, the brothers decided to double down on their commitment to Rhode Island. Hence, their new line of artisanal, locally made charcuterie to complement their conventional line. While the brothers are proud of those products, and they are processed here in Rhode Island, they’re made on a large scale using pork sourced from farmers in places like Iowa and the Midwest. This new venture is a small batch product, made only with pigs from New England farmers. “The new line is less than one percent of the total business,” explains Davide. “But it’s the most exciting.” Stefano adds, “It’s nice to keep that slow pace and have products people really want. We don’t want it to be mass-produced. We want it to be really focused and special.”
To close the loop on their local line, the Dukceviches reached out to RISD students to design the packaging, and asked chefs at Johnson & Wales to devise recipes using the new products, which are featured on the Daniele website. “There’s a bridge between food, art and design,” Davide notes. They will also be sold locally through Farm Fresh RI and Dave’s Market, and are available at restaurants like Farmstead and Avenue N. The line currently includes sopressata, mortadella, pancetta, capocollo, salame Milano, chorizo and, of course, prosciutto. These are made the right way – the old way – and Davide points out with a mixture of pride and amusement that once every few months the plant is visited by some octogenarian gentlemen from Italy that he calls “the prosciutto Jedi,” who monitor Daniele’s processes and quality.
With a renewed commitment to Rhode Island, the Dukcevich family is bullish on the prospects for our ailing local economy. “So many people complain that it sucks here,” notes Davide. “Why? Let’s do something about it. We’re really proud to be here and celebrate it.”