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"I attended a two-day intensive seminar at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City recently," Fred Recchiuti, general manager of Basciani Mushroom Farms in Avondale, PA, told The Produce News July 6. “Some of the feedback I got from the chefs who were in attendance was that Portabella mushrooms are almost too big today. It was mentioned that it's too bad that a petite Portabella — one that could be eaten in just a few bites — wasn’t available that could fit onto a slider.”

Sliders are small hamburgers usually served three or four to an order, and are most frequently found on appetizer and bar menus. They have become increasingly popular in recent years because people can share one or two orders as a snack or appetizer without committing to a main dish-sized portion.

Mr. Recchiuti heeded the advice of the professional chefs and brought the information back to his company. Basciani Mushroom Farms went right to work on harvesting the right size Portabellas, and in short time it was ready to introduce two new items: slider-size petite Portabellas and hickory smoked petite Portabellas.

“We are the mushroom foodservice specialists, and we recognize that restaurant guests are demanding more complex flavors and more bite sized morsels,” company President Michael Basciani said in a July 4 press release introducing the new mushroom. “That’s why we also offer the new petite Portabella in a hickory smoked version. This works well for many menu items, not just for sliders. They are perfect for main dishes like pastas with cream sauce or even an up-sell side order for steaks. And the cost per serving is incredibly good.”

Founded in 1925, and now in its fourth generation of family management, Basciani Mushroom Farms prides itself on consistently high-quality fresh mushrooms as well as its focus on fast service.

Today the company grows, packs and ships over a million pounds of mushrooms each week. Its extensive product line includes all sizes of white mushrooms and exotics. It packs for national retail grocery store chains as well as for foodservice distributors.

The company also has processing and storage facilities in Chicago and Minneapolis.

In 1970, Basciani and other investors bought The Mushroom Co. in Cambridge, MD, a processing facility, in order to control an outlet for secondary product. This enables Basciani to provide the highest quality fresh prime mushrooms to customers.

“This is not a business where you get a scheduled vacation,” said Mr. Basciani. “It’s a year-round, 24-hour, seven-day-a-week business. It’s labor- intensive, and everyone at the company does back-breaking work. You don’t last four generations in a family business without family values being of paramount importance. Hard work is one of those values.”

Hard work and dedication to its company have paid off for Basciani Mushroom Farms.

The company was recently featured on the Discovery Channel’s Epicurious program and on the Public Broadcasting System’s American Heartland show. The company also offers three-minute video tours of its operations on its web site and at trade shows.

The company’s total quality assurance HACCP scores are consistently in the upper 90 percentile range.

“Today, more than ever, foodservice operators want more complex flavors at lower per serving costs, and they are looking for ways to reduce preparation time in the kitchen,” said Mr. Recchiuti. “We’re talking to some menu- development people about limited time offers, possibly leading to permanent menu items. We suggest foodservice operators get their menu development teams involved and call us for more information.”