Pusateri’s Fine Foods has built its success on providing customers high quality food, but it’s a reputation that has been hard-earned, say Dominic Fortuna, vice president of quality assurance and Joe Figliomeni, meat specialist.
Grocery Business had the opportunity recently to tour Pusateri’s commissary in north Toronto and gain some insights into the investments the grocer has made to maintain the highest quality standards for its meats and prepared foods. From this Toronto destination, thousands of kilograms of meats and prepared foods get shipped daily to Pusateri’s Fine Food stores across the GTA.
Six years ago, Pusateri’s invested in a modern commissary and with the help of Fortuna, designed a building with the “highest standard of food safety,” says Fortuna. “The building is designed in a linear fashion, so the flow pattern is one dimensional to avoid cross contamination. We’re provincially inspected monthly and regular annual training for employees on food safety is mandatory.”
Each room in the commissary is separated by doors with foam panels that generate foam as people enter a room to ensure bacteria isn’t carried from room to room. Employees wear colour coded clean jackets – e.g. green for fruit and vegetables – to control the flow of movement and ensure workers in the meat department don’t move into the seafood or dairy department and create contamination. The colour coding system is also applied to kitchen utensils so that items such as knives are used in the same food preparation department each time after cleaning.
For one thing, there’s Joe Figliomeni, the passionate meat specialist who has been with Pusateri’s for 27 years.
“I started when I was 19 years old and the first thing I learned from our founder, Cosimo, was that if you sacrifice an animal, you can’t throw any of it away so what we don’t use gets rendered into animal feed.”
Figliomeni says what sets Pusateri’s beef offerings apart is its approach to preparation. Pusateri’s beef is aged for 21 to 28 days using a dry ageing process, which he says is unique to Pusateri’s and “a fundamental part of our beef business. The process creates a more tender and more flavourful cut.”
Another secret to its success is that it only handles fatty Triple A beef from federal facilities, from sources Figliomeni has worked with for 27 years.
“The really fatty beef is naturally marbled and holds well while it’s curing. I’m proud to say that I’ve dealt with the same suppliers and the same farmers for 27 years. Very seldom do I look at price lists; it’s about getting the best quality beef.”
The meats are dry aged in a specially designed refrigeration room that controls humidity and temperature to maintain constant parameters and ensure the proper ageing of the beef. Once the meats are ready to be processed, meat manager Dylan Craig and his team create the specialty cuts, including Pusateri’s “Manhattan” cut as well as processed sausages and hamburgers.
“By the time the consumer gets the meat at store level, it’s been further processed to remove nerves and trim off more fat, about a quarter inch to concentrate on the heart of the eye. There’s a lot of loss; we start with a 45-lb rib and it gets trimmed down to about 14 lb, but it’s part of how we create great tasting meats that Pusateri’s is well known for,” explains Figliomeni.