The Old Tradition of Pasta Factories in the Agro-Nocerino
Of those numerous and glorious Nocerine families dedicated to the “white art”, almost no one remains. The “almost” is necessary because only one has resisted the attacks of technology and computerization: Raimondo Vicidomini, whose ancestors started dedicating themselves to pasta production in 1812. All of the competitors have since closed after more than a century of pasta production. Luigi and Mario Vicidomini are the sixth generation to carry on the family tradition. Approximately two centuries of pasta that moved from Nocera Inferiore to Castel San Giorgio: (Castel San Giorgio has become one of the more important industrial and trade districts in Campania, since the construction of the highway Caserta-Salerno that crosses Agro-Vesuviano and Agro-Nocerino in order to connect the Autostrada del Sole to the Salerno-Reggio Calabria.)
In order to understand the difference between an artisan and an industrial/commercial product, one must visit Castel San Giorgio, where the “artigianato” (artisan craftsmanship) spirit is valued highly. In the heart of the village of Castel San Giorgio amidst splendid churches and Noblemen’s villas, there remains an authentic pre-industrial factory, where authenticity of the product is borne of the winds and abundant waters of the region.
The Raw materials
It would be best to start with an explanation of the raw materials. The roughly ground Durum wheat semolina comes from the Altamura, in Puglia, one of the strongholds of the Italian milling tradition. It is certified organic and without pesticides. The semolina from Puglia arrives just as pure as it has for over two hundred years, to be worked by the pasta factories of Campania. The semolina delivered to Vicidomini, does not endure any alterations or enrichment, it goes directly into the “impastatrice” (corkscrew mixer) with mountain spring water, in accordance with doses that are kept absolutely secret.
The Choice of Shapes
The semolina mix is then passed through bronze dyes. We have approximately 200 forms from which to choose. With the bronze dyes, the result is noticeably superior and totally artisan, almost like handmade, and the pasta absorbs “ragù” (meat sauce) and other sauces much better, especially if you are talking about one of the two traditional dishes of Castel San Giorgio: goat “braciola” or polpette (meatballs) of Saint Biagio.The Teflon dyes, on the other hand, create a product with greater uniformity and is more commonly distributed by other industrial grade pasta factories. In any case, one doesn’t have to be an expert in order to immediately notice the difference between the two types. Aesthetically, tactically, and most importantly, by tasting, Vicidomini pasta from the bronze dyes is white in colour, with a floury feel and is delicious enough to be eaten without any sauce at all, or by adding just a drop of olive oil like the “mangiamaccheroni” of the legendarily rough-and-tumble 19th Century Naples.
The Drying Process
Traditionally, pasta was dried in the open air on terraces. In only about the last fifty years, the drying in “Celle Cirillo” (named after the inventor) was adopted. After coming through the bronze dyes, the pasta is spread on aerated looms. The looms are then stacked one on top of another and arranged around a giant propeller fan. What happens after remains a family secret: the ratio of wind in relation to the humidity rate, the temperature, and the quantity of pasta in the “Celle”, etc. While the actual technique of drying is “Top Secret”, we do reveal that short pasta takes about three days, while spaghetti, candele and all the other long pasta can take as long as five days to dry. In addition, the pasta is also moved every so often. In short, every package is different from another, having a unique history and personality.
Moving on to the packaging:500g with red ribbonor transparent with the yellow logo for 1 kilo packs. The miracle is repeated, producing 1000-1200 kilos everyday. And as it can only happen with unique products, there is an immense following of affectionate customers, restaurateurs, and connoisseurs in all of Italy. The request for our product often exceeds what we can offer. However, our store is always open and restocked for the customers in the neighbourhood; where the personal relationships and old family ways still have a strong value.