How DOP Italian food fits into Nicola’s Marketplace’s local New Jersey delicacies
It can be hard to know who to trust when it comes to food. How can we be certain about how a product was made or where the ingredients came from? Is the product always really what the label says?
These questions become even more pressing when seeking out high-in-demand traditional foods like Italian salumi or cheeses. There are many imposters on the market, making it challenging to verify the authenticity of the food.
The European Union identified this problem as well and instituted the DOP and IGP label programs. These labels guarantee that a food is truly what it says it is and they help support small producers.
At Nicola’s we value the information held in these labels and use them to inform our own approach to producing local food. In this blog, we’ll share what the labels are, what they mean, and how we are creating our own standards for Italian food here in New Jersey.
IGP and DOP Labels Guarantee Delicious Italian Food
The Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin) label indicates a food has been produced in a specific region using only local ingredients and traditional processes. It guarantees quality and flavor.
DOP is assigned by the European Union and can be found on foods from a variety of European countries. Italy, with its long culinary history, is home to many beloved DOP foods such as Parmigiano Reggiano DOP.
The DOP label is only available to foods that are unique to their region. It can apply to raw ingredients such as Arancia di Ribera (oranges from Ribera), foods that have been preserved in some way such as Grana Padano cheese or Prosciutto di San Daniele, or baked goods such as Pane di Altamura, a type of sourdough bread from Altamura.
All DOP foods must follow strict regulations around the ingredients, production process, and even packaging of the finished product. All ingredients must come from the geographic region specified. The production process must use traditional methods and the packaging must indicate that it is a DOP product.
These guidelines protect traditional Italian foods from imitators and imposters. When you see a food with a DOP label, you can be sure that the product is reliable, delicious, and truly Italian.
Indicazione Geografica Protetta (Protected Geographic Indication) is another food label that guarantees the quality and provenance of a food product. IGP products can be traced to a specific geographic region, but don’t have to adhere to as strict guidelines as DOP products.
IGP foods must have at least one main ingredient from or one phase of production that occurs in the specified geographic region. For example, while Capocollo di Calabria DOP must be made in Calabria with pork from pigs raised in Calabria, Bologna Mortadella IGP must be made in Bologna, but can use pork from pigs raised outside of the region.
Though it’s less intensive than DOP, the IGP label still indicates that the food is made or raised with care according to long standing traditions. It also guarantees that the product was either raised or processed in Italy.
The DOP and IGP labels both ensure quality and preserve tradition when it comes to Italian food. They support small, artisanal producers in Italy and help consumers to identify trustworthy foods.
Nicola’s Marketplace Sets Our Own High Standards
The DOP and IGP labels are both assigned by the European Union which means that they only apply to European foods. At Nicola’s Marketplace, we import certain DOP foods such as Salame Piacentino DOP and Pecorino Toscano DOP, but much of what we sell is made here in New Jersey and not eligible for these labels. As a result, we’ve developed our own set of standards, informed by the guiding principles of the DOP and IGP labels.
We’re committed to showcasing the best of local New Jersey food. You’ll never see a tropical fruit ravioli in our store because no tropical fruit grows in New Jersey. You will however see lots of delicious sweet corn, pea shoots, and organic grass fed beef - foods that we can easily find from trustworthy farmers in our region.
We also celebrate the seasonality of our local food system. We buy produce at the peak of its season and preserve it to use for as much of the year as we can. That said, when we run out of local corn, that’s it until next summer. We won’t jeopardize the integrity, or the flavor, of our products by using ingredients that aren’t local to us.
The DOP label requires that foods be made with local Italian ingredients using traditional methods. The Nicola’s label guarantees food made with local New Jersey ingredients using our carefully developed recipes. It’s not the same thing, but it's as close as we can get here in the US.