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Crackers & Chocolate

The street number for the address of Fratelli Comino did not seem to exist! We drove repeatedly up and down the little country road, we found signs with numbers either side of 128, but not the elusive number 128 itself. Finally, we got as close as we could and went into a little ceramics factory and sought local knowledge. "Just behind us", they said, and indeed that was exactly where we found them – within a small unnumbered, unnamed factory. The operation boasts a total staff of four, including the two brothers (whose name the business bears), Marco and Luca Comino.

The brothers have been working together for twelve years, using their grandfather's recipe to make their lingue and 'Rubatà' which is Piedmontese dialect for 'grissini'. The main ingredients are pure and simple. Locally grown and milled 'tenero' flour, which is the equivalent of a '00', and quality extra virgin olive oil sourced from either Liguria or Tuscany.

The extra virgin olive oil from these two regions is always highly priced. Marco and Luca want a particular base flavour in their dough – and do not see the point in compromising. Because so many of these types of products use lesser quality oil or lard, this does explain the excellent flavour of the Comino brother’s range.

They could certainly not be mistaken for twins like our other producers Guiliano and Davide Melis of Mandrile and Melis, (who they attended elementary school with). Marco is very tall and slim and he played basketball at national level, before one of his knees demanded his retirement. He then went on to study architecture, however the idea of working with his hands beside his brother Luca (who had studied economics), appealed more – so off they went. They joke that they work well together and they have observed over the years that many business relationships between brothers don't last long term, generally because of the wives falling out!

Initially, Marco and Luca supplied much larger companies, who in turn repacked their products and on sold them as their own. After doing this for a while they decided that they should take the plunge, stop making for other people, and deal directly with the market themselves. Marco is also the designer behind their appealing packaging.

As we talked, Marco kept working, gathering the lingue as they rolled out of the oven and popping them into their cellophane bags. They only take a few minutes to cook. These boys are innovative. 'Try our new flavour, we want to know what you think' they suggested. Out came a Rubatà with a truffle flavour. We tasted it and the flavour went on and on and on....Marco had decided that the truffle flavourings normally used did not meet his high standards, so set about creating his own, sourcing locally the local white truffle of Alba to do so!  This year they are introducing new products, wholemeal Rubatà, and a short style of breadstick.

Since we were only 10 minutes away we popped in to see the delightful Melis family and took the opportunity to sample some of the new flavours they are making.  It's always the right time to taste  good chocolate! The Mandrile and Manis fillings always taste so good – they offer a real intensity of flavour which is lacking in so many of the others we try. We sampled strawberry Champagne (using real Champagne), banana, cappuccino, mojito and fruit of the forest, and re-tasted some of their other flavours (I did love reacquainting myself with their mint and crème caramel). By this stage some would say that was enough food for the day. Except of course later… there was dinner.