by RONA MANN

Carla_RodolfoSometimes things happen because they were just meant to be.

It was during the 1980s that a young girl from Connecticut named Carla did what many college students do…she spent a year abroad in Bologna, Italy. Carla was studying Italian while at the same time and in the same place, a young Italian boy, Rodolfo Bartolucci,was studying agriculture. Perhaps it was serendipity that brought them together, or maybe it was just meant to be. Although raised in different cultures and on different sides of the ocean, they had a mutual love for food, ingrained in them from families boasting talented cooks who put a big emphasis on the preparation and enjoyment of good food. Eventually the young girl and the young man came together and formed a union, marrying not only their cultures, but also their passionate love of good food.

Spend just a few minutes with Carla Bartolucci, and one understands why she is passionate about all of us wisely using the land, replenishing what we use, and nourishing others through this usage in what has to be the healthiest, most natural, tastiest modality on the planet. Carla, small and slight of frame, absolutely radiates when she walks into a room, instantly emitting good health, boundless energy, and a positive strength that is altogether infectious. Little wonder then that her company is named Jovial, defined as “happy and cheerful.”

4508800075While Jovial Food’s reputation is now worldwide in scope, it began on a very small scale as a result of a personal family problem. Carla and Rodolfo have two daughters. A number of years ago they noticed that one of their children, Giulia, had definite symptoms of food allergies…digestive problems, mood swings, sinusitis, asthma, and excessive hair loss; yet her condition was not specifically diagnosed as celiac disease. Being organic food professionals, they soon realized that this was due to her body’s  sensitivity to modern wheat. But rather than totally omit wheat from their diets in an effort to alleviate their daughter’s symptoms, the Bartoluccis wondered if perhaps there might be a different type of wheat that would be better tolerated, as well as providing a healthy alternative. After much research on their part, they discovered a little known crop called einkorn. It not only cleared up their daughter’s health problems, but gave the Bartoluccis a future built on something that was very deeply rooted in the past.

Einkorn wheat was perhaps one of the very first plants to be domesticated nearly 10,000 years ago from ancient archaeological sites in southern Turkey. Until the Bartoluccis embraced it, only 200 acres of einkorn were being farmed worldwide. Now Carla and  Rodolfo grow it on more than 1000 acres in Tuscany and are the world’s primary producers of this seemingly miracle grain. Wheat gluten studies have found einkorn may indeed be non-toxic to those with a gluten intolerance. It contains more protein, beta-carotene, Vitamin A, lutein, and riboflavin than modern wheats; and because it is a “hulled” wheat, the grain is protected from stray chemical contamination and insects…therefore it is easier to grow organically.

Most important of all, einkorn tastes so very good and is so very versatile in  recipes.  So much so that Carla recently published a book of 100 recipes called Einkorn: The Cookbook, Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat. It may be found in local bookstores, on amazon, or may be ordered through the Jovial Foods website.

In addition to einkorn flour, wheat berries, cookies, pasta, and crackers, Jovial produces organic olive oil (made from ancient varieties of olives) and organic tomato products on their farm just outside Modena in Italy. “We are just one hour north of Florence near Bologna,” Carla informs. “Beautiful open countryside, perfect for organic farming.” Carla is nothing if not forthright. “I am past 40 now. I had a hard early part of my life, and that’s why I wanted to do something I really liked and believed in during the second part of my life. I want to be happy and healthy. That’s why I’m doing this. I want other families to be healthy like ours using our products.”

15May_LuccaS120Day5_132Three years ago Carla and Rodolfo expanded their joy and added Jovial culinary getaways to their home base in Italy…one week adventures that are unlike any in the world. For just one week their guests learn to cook gluten free Italian style.”We limit it to groups of 20-22 people,” Carla says. “We all live together under one roof in an 18th century Tuscan villa in Lucca.” The trip includes a welcome dinner prepared by a favorite local chef and hosted by the Bartolucci family; daily breakfasts of fresh baked pies, yogurt, eggs, breads, and cereals; three hands-on cooking classes personally taught by Carla, followed by lunch and dinner; a Farewell dinner, and amenities hand picked by the host and hostess. And of course there is an in-depth class on einkorn and the baking of einkorn bread. All dates in 2015 sold out very quickly, but they are now taking reservations on the Jovial website for the two getaways scheduled for 2016.

Several years ago Jovial Foods opened a warehouse in Franklin,Connecticut; but in a very short time they will be moving south a few miles as they have taken over
the John Randall homestead in North Stonington,which in the 1980s used to house Randall’s Ordinary, a restaurant and inn featuring open hearth cooking. On this property Carla and Rodolfo will build a nearly 23,000 square foot distribution center and warehouse which will then become the worldwide headquarters for Jovial Foods. Because the design and remodeling is so extensive it will open in phases, beginning in early summer of 2016. And yes, there are plans for the inn to reopen…renovated, but not modernized, preserving the history and character of the buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Appreciating family, preserving traditions, being passionate about food.” That’s the foundation on which the Bartoluccis built their business more than 20 years ago. It’s what they believe, how they live, and what they want to share with the rest of world. While the Bartoluccis come back to Mystic every summer, they return to Italy each fall, where their bi-lingual daughters go to school and they do what they love to do best…find more and more ways to eat well while eating healthy.

Come…meet la famiglia and try their products, experience what they are proud to offer, and see firsthand what grew from a young girl’s gluten sensitivity to a company that’s actively doing something healthy and good for their customers worldwide. You’ll never taste anything like it, and you’ll feel healthy, happy, and good about yourself.

Perhaps that’s why they call it “Jovial.”

“We’re real people,” concludes Carla. We just want to share what we discovered with other people.” And they have.

“Mangiare sano buon sapore!” (healthy eating tastes good).

Visit Jovial Foods to order Carla’s cookbook and  for further information on how you can experience firsthand their fabulous cooking school in Italy! www.jovialfoods.com

You will find Jovial products locally at:

Foodworks in Guilford
Foodworks II in Old Saybrook
Green Market in Lisbon
Fiddleheads in New London
Ginger Root Health Foods in Taftville
Stop & Shop in Madison/Old Saybrook
Dunns Corner Market, Westerly, RI

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