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This article was published 10/10/2017 (1473 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Piccola Cucina is only small in their name.
On Sept. 20, Pina Romolo, co-owner of Piccola Cucina (14-360 Keewatin St.), won the silver award at the Great Manitoba Food Fight held at De Luca’s Specialty Foods Store (950 Portage Ave.). She received $7,000 for her hemp macaroons, a new line of healthy and indulgent treats she is hoping to launch in the next year or so.
Romolo and Piccola Cucina have been in the food market for eight years applying her Italian cuisine know-how and producing macaroons made with almond flour. Today, her products can be found in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and she is working to expand her line to other provinces in Canada and they recently started to export their products to the United States.
"Our advantage is that we are able to innovate, we’re able to pivot and create new products and continue with the staples that we have that people love. All of our stuff is gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, so we’re touching a lot of the allergens that people are looking to stay away from."
Three years ago, Romolo met with one of Hemp Oil Canada founders, Shaun Crew, who asked if she was interested in creating products with hemp seeds in baking.
Since then, Piccola Cucina partnered with Red River College’s Culinary Research and Innovation program to produce a macaroon made of hemp seeds. The Oak Point Highway business is bringing a whole new product, which is made of 40 to 50 per cent of hemp seeds, into the food market.
"Hemp is grown here in Manitoba...no one has taken this ingredient and elevated it, created something super unique, so we took our Italian know-how, applied that knowledge of making macaroons and created the hemp macaroon."
Innovation, creativity and business mastery is what the GMFF looks for when awarding its winners an opportunity to receive support to commercialize their locally made products.
The competition was open to companies that have developed, but not fully commercialized, a new food or beverage product. A panel of judges sampled the products and assessed their strengths. The money Piccola Cucina received will be used to do shelf-life testing, health claims to better market the product, training and labelling.
"We’re trying to understand the ingredient a bit better, understand how long we have to sell it on the shelf…or potentially look at other ways of selling or packaging the product," Romolo said. "We’re going into territory where no one’s ever gone before. We are innovating something and we’re taking that ingredient and we are thinking outside the box."
Romolo said she is excited to try out this new line of nut-free product that is made of hemp seeds, egg whites, cane sugar, salt and natural flavouring. In addition to the winning salted caramel flavour, they are developing raspberry anise and cappuccino hemp macaroons.
"I’m really excited for what the future will bring for that line of products. People are looking for healthy food that they can consume on the go, that they don’t feel guilty about eating. That’s really what we’re creating."
The GMFF is sponsored by the Manitoba government and Food & Beverage Manitoba, in partnership with De Luca’s. For more information about the 11th annual Great Manitoba Food Fight, visit www.gmff.ca
To learn more about Piccola Cucina and the work they do go to www.piccolacucina.ca
Community journalist — The Times
Ligia Braidotti was the community journalist for The Times until 2019.