For Don Battimelli ’17, bringing his business acumen back to the family business is a combo as perfect as the Carmine’s special
On any given day, some 600 customers pass through the doors of Battimelli’s A&S Italian Fine Foods, in Fairfield, Connecticut. They come for house-made mozzarella and sausages, fresh pasta, master-butchered meats, hard-to-find imported specialty groceries, and a staggering array of sandwiches, soups, and lovingly prepared dishes like baked manicotti, stuffed hot peppers, and calamari salad. They come as well for the old-world service and the sense of community Battimelli’s has been serving up alongside its famous soppressata ever since it opened almost 40 years ago.
“We know our customers by name,” says Don Battimelli ’17, who runs the family business alongside his father and A&S founder, Carmine, and brother Giovanni. “It’s actually one of the key points we make when we’re training a new employee—you’re not just waiting on this person. You are establishing a relationship; you are meeting their needs with the attention and care of a friend.”
Having grown up with the family business—Don remembers working 36 straight hours during Christmas catering rushes while home from Williston—Don and Giovanni are now driving the company’s expansion into packaged foods. Early next year, Battimelli’s will roll out a line of cured meats for national distribution from a custom-built 10,000-square-foot facility in Milford, Connecticut. Incorporated as Salumificio G.B., the new business intends to launch with several types of traditional dried sausage, including a salami nostrano, a sweet soppresatta, and a hot soppresatta. It will also produce fresh linked sausage in the varieties currently made at the Fairfield retail location for wholesale under the Battimelli’s label. Additional products will follow, including a specialty prosciutto and a style of Italian salumi whose exact identity remains a closely guarded secret.
“I’m not going to disclose too much at this time,” chuckles Don. “The products are about 12 months out. But I will share these little nuggets. The prosciutto uses a proprietary blend of herbs and spices for a unique flavor profile, and the other product has never before been produced domestically.” All of the meats are inspired by recipes and techniques Don’s grandfather brought with him from the family seat near Naples when he emigrated to New York in 1963.
“My father learned from him,” Don says, “and my brother and I learned from my father. These products have literally been passed down for generations.”
Opening a new chapter in the storied family business was not always part of Don’s plan. At Williston, where he was a standout lacrosse and hockey player, his career interests ran strongly toward accounting and finance. He fondly remembers completing a special project at Easthampton Savings Bank for a class taught by then-Williston CFO Chuck McCullagh. From Williston Don went on to study business at Fairfield University, landing an internship at Littlejohn & Co., the Greenwich-based private equity firm, during his sophomore year. By the time he was a senior, he was working 80 hours a week at the venture capital group Loeb.nyc. “I’ve always been pretty good at time management,” he says.
During one of his projects at Loeb, Don got to know Bryan Janeczko, the successful serial entrepreneur behind Nunbelievable, the socially conscious baked goods company, among other startups. It was Janeczko who drew him aside one day and said, “You know, you guys have a great family business that is really scalable.” As it turned out, Don’s brother Giovanni was thinking along the same lines.
“Giovanni came to me and said, ‘Hey, what would you think about a salumi manufacturing business where we can produce the same great cured products that the family’s been making for generations?”
At Salumificio G.B., Giovanni, with a background in food science, handles product development and production, while Don oversees finance and business operations. They’ve hired away a chief marketing officer from a large Italian packaged-foods company and are in the process of building out the sales force. Three distributors are lined up and ready to carry the new products. Meanwhile, Battimelli’s A&S founding partner Carmine is always available for advice and guidance. “With all his experience, my father sometimes foresees things that my brother and I may not,” says Don. “We’re more likely to run headfirst through walls. The three of us complement each other really well.”
Three Battimelli Classics
From hearty pasta e fagioli to a legendary burrata BLT, every item on the Battimelli’s menu attracts fierce loyalists. For those who can’t decide, Don recommends these three signature creations.
- Prosciutto bread: Made on site, the fan-favorite loaf is stuffed with prosciutto, salami, ham, and just the right amount of cheese. “Throw it in the oven for 20 minutes at 350°,” says Don. “It is insane. Definitely one of our biggest favorites.”
Carmine’s Special: House-prepared fried chicken cutlet is topped with Parma prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, oven-roasted red peppers,
and peppery arugula, dressed with Battimelli’s own balsamic vinaigrette, and served on fresh bread delivered daily from an old-school bakery in the Bronx. “It’s my dad’s namesake sandwich and definitely a staple here,” says Don.
Cheese + Parsley Sausage Wheel: Available in 24- and 36-ounce sizes, the house-made coil of fresh sausage is a proprietary mix of beef, pork, cheese, and seasonings. “It’s the essence of grilling with friends,” says Don. “As soon as you put it on the table, everyone’s jumping at
it, eager to get a piece before it’s gone.”
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