Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fresina's Will Bring Italy to You


I went to Fresina's Italian Specialties  today for some Christmas gifts.  I always have those on my list for whom gifting is a near impossible task.  You know the type.  They either have everything and/or buy everything they want for themselves ,or you don't know them well enough to buy something for them.  We all have those people in our lives.  So, I went to Fresinas. 

Fresina's  is locally owned by Frank and Linda Fresina.  Frank is a direct descendant of the original Sicilian owners and Linda graduated from high school with me.  (Baton Rouge is a very, very small place!) The family has been making pasta since 1926 with its beginning in New Orleans as the Fresina Macaroni Manufacturing Company. Chef John Folse, a widely known celebrity chef and author has featured Frank's mother on his  cooking shows produced by Louisiana Public Broadcasting for national distribution. Mama Fresina, as she is known, still participates in the pasta making and her homemade lasagna is renowned.  Fresina's has also been featured in Paula Deen's Taste of the South magazine.  There is a five page spread on the store, the Fresinas and some of their wonderful recipes.  Recently they had a visit from a food writer of the New York Times who is interested in including them in her new book about food from around the 50 states. 

The shop specialty is homemade pasta. Boxes of it cover one entire wall. The pasta comes in all shapes and is made in the traditional way with no preservatives, no additives and no artificial coloring.  When I saw the purple and gold rotini (for Mardi Gras and LSU Tiger Fans) I questioned the color statement, but after investigation found they use dehydrated beet powder for the beautiful purple hue. Frank is quoted as saying: "It's simply the finest pasta made on earth. You have my name on it."  You can watch a video of the pasta making process on their web site http://www.fresinas.com/  The web site mentions that the public can come and observe the process.  I would like to do that.

They also have signature sauces that  have been made with recipes passed down by several generations of cooking experts.  There's Levigato (smooth), Pezzo (chunky), Pepato (spicy) and Sano (heart healthy).  Another Signature  sauce is called Pasta Dressing.  It's a cross between Alfredo and Salad Dressing and can be served hot or cold.  It can stand alone on pasta or used in dips or as a salad dressing.  Yum!

To please those seeking an authentic Italian shopping experience, they stock numerous imported items. Of note are the fresh cheeses they have in the shop.  Someone came in to get Parmesan while I was there and it was to die for!  Not too many places in Baton Rouge have the real thing, so I was very impressed.
The balsamic vinegar I purchased for someone on my list is aged 7 years and the Fresinas are the exclusive distributors in Louisiana. "Casa Rinaldi BalsamicVinegar infused with Wild Forest Berries" was taste tested and Linda even gave me a recipe for its use. I am sure that my recipient will appreciate the uniqueness of the gift!   I was also able to find Baci chocolates for my daughter who fell in love with this candy when she went to Italy.  I had to have the Panettone that I tried on my own trip to the boot shaped country. I discovered last year that left over Panettone makes the best bread pudding.


Foods are not the only products sold in the shop.  They also have a cookbook with Mama Fresina's secrets and olive oil based soaps and skin care products.  In fact, this blog would be too long if I tried to mention all the products they carry.  You can shop online and see everything for yourself or get in your car and drive over for a pleasant interlude in a busy day.  Linda and Frank will make you feel like you are part of the family!  They are willing to ship your purchases and also to help you carry your shopping bags to your car.  Now that's personal service in the highest form!

The Fresinas have a long range plan to open a reception/party/educational center in the outskirts of town just off I-10.  They want to bring Italy to our fair city with traditional celebrations and cooking demonstrations.   The convention and visitors center has shown some interest and it may happen soon.  I think it's a wonderful idea. 

I noted that each customer is encouraged to visit Fresina's web site to shop and  to check out Fresina's Mountain Cabin Rentals.  Frank and Linda  own two cabins near Chattanooga, Tennessee and the web site pics make them seem very appealing.  Frank told me that they give special rates to their customers.  I hope to be included in that category. 

As I was leaving after purchasing several gift items and a few things for myself, I felt that I had not only supported a local business, but had been transported to another place and time.  A slice of Italy right in my own backyard!  Gustare!

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