Which is why, three years ago, he came to Moscow with a certain amount of prejudice. He wasn’t convinced by his wife that Russia and Russians had changed, or that Moscow was one of the world’s most dynamically developing megapolises with many expats, including Italians. And that the attitude to them here was quite alright.A glittering career in IT awaited his wife in Moscow. And Pierangelo wanted to radically change his way of life. Until then, he had managed to live in several countries, Germany and Greece among them, and had learned how to adapt quickly to a new environment. And so he decided to take a look and see, if indeed, Moscow really had changed that much.
Russians had become more open, more liberated. They had developed a taste for fine food and clothes.
As it turned out, his wife had been telling the truth.Russians really had become more open, more liberated. They had developed a taste for fine food and clothes. And, a year and a half later, after the close of the next theatre season, Pierangelo once more began to get himself ready to go to Russia. This time, for a while.
– But we agreed: if I liked it here, we would stay. If not: we’d go back to Italy or Greece!
From these words there is no doubt who is the head of the family. But the head, believes Pierangelo, is not the person who makes all the decisions, but the one who earns the money, who feeds the family. And it seemed to him that Moscow offered him considerably more opportunities than Western Europe.
– At first, I didn’t know a soul here, Pierangelo remembers. - And so, I decided to search for my fellow countrymen on the social networks. It was soon clear that there are really quite a lot of them. There are 1,300 people alone registered with the “Italians in Moscow” group on Facebook. I chatted with them for a while and found out that most of them work in Italian restaurants as head-chefs, waiters and bar-tenders.
There are 1,300 people alone registered with the “Italians in Moscow” group on Facebook. I chatted with them for a while and found out that most of them work in Italian restaurants.
Just imagine: Pierangelo is a veritable polyglot! He speaks six languages: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish and Greek. But he finds Russian the hardest of all. Which means that he is better off working in Moscow with his fellow countrymen, with those who can understand him.
–But what use was I to them? – exclaims the Italian, heatedly. – I don’t even know how to make a pizza!
Soon, Pierangelo came to the company Italia Mia which supplies Russia with Italian produce. And he became the commercial director there. The work may not be as creative as choreography, but it is interesting, nonetheless.
– We are involved in distribution, and work directly with suppliers in Italy, Pierangelo tells us. – We have our own storage facility in Mytishchi, outer-Moscow, and a shop in Moscow itself. We supply produce to supermarkets and restaurants.
Having started operating in 2011 (which was declared the Year of Friendship and Cultural Cooperation between Italy and Russia), Italia Mia supplies the Russian market with a wide variety of traditional Italian food: sausage and meat products, cheeses, olive oil, vinegar, tinned fish and vegetables, mushrooms, pasta, coffee, and many other products. The company provides goods from such producers as Antimo Caputo, Casar, Mordenti, Giuseppe Calvi, Olieficio Ranieri, Flott, Masserie, Serbosco, Verrigni, Varvello, Montalbano, and Caseificio Albiero.
The owners of Italia Mia are a Russian family. As a company, it is very young, and quite small. Six people work in the office, the same again at the commercial outlets, plus three delivery drivers. They are all Russian. The commercial director of Italia Mia is the only Italian. 90% of the produce is transported to Russia by trailer from the storehouse in Verona, Italy. Italia Mia employs the services of a single transportation company with which they have a long-term contract. On average, this takes 3-4 days: it all depends on how long it takes to get through customs. Pierangelo emphasises that all the lorry-drivers coming from Italy always set off with the all of the necessary documents.
– But, for some strange reason, problems always crop up at Customs, - says our companion, in bemusement.
He is not about to expand on this subject. However, he does give the very same advice which has been heard more than once coming from businessmen working in Russia.
– You need a Russian partner here. Otherwise you’ll just be ruined.
10% of the goods from Italy are delivered by aeroplane. These, in the main, are perishable goods like, for example, mozzarella cheese. It’s an expensive pleasure, but what can you do? That very same mozzarella has a shelf-life of no more than 10 days. And if four of those days are spent on transportation…And, let’s say, rice, well, it’s possible to send that by sea. It takes a whole month coming through Petersburg.
Recently, the proportion of imported foodstuffs in Moscow has been growing. For meat, it is over 55%, for oil: 50%, for fish: 30%. According to expert estimates, with the lowering of duties due to Russia’s joining the WTO, the proportion of imported produce is only set to increase.Pierangelo is not prepared to reveal what proportion of that produce here is Italian. But only for the simple reason that the serious competition to authentic and high-quality food from Italy which can be bought in Moscow, and other Russian cities, is posed by its imitators.
– People have cottoned on to the fact that there is good money to be made from Italian food. Everything on the packaging is written in Italian, but it is not from Italy.Under the guise of “Italian” cheese, there are, on sale in Russia, all manner of cheeses from Romania, like “Parmesan”, for example. It’s the same with sausage. As a rule, it is brought in from Hungary and other Eastern European countries. Labour costs there aren’t very high, and everything is cheaper. But they bear absolutely no resemblance to Italian products.Only, this is something about which customers generally don’t have a clue. In Pierangelo’s words, only reputable companies supply high-quality Italian food in Moscow. All the rest is of a much lower standard. But only a genuine Italian is able to tell a fake from the taste.
Only, this is something about which customers generally don’t have a clue. In Pierangelo’s words, only reputable companies supply high-quality Italian food in Moscow. All the rest is of a much lower standard. But only a genuine Italian is able to tell a fake from the taste.
Under the guise of “Italian” cheese, there are, on sale in Russia, all manner of cheeses from Romania, like “Parmesan”, for example. It’s the same with sausage.
– Authentic products go through all the necessary tests: quality control, hygiene standards in Italy are very strict, - says Pierangelo. – We can guarantee that they are good for your health. But what can they say, those in some cellar in Romania making “Italian” cheese out of…dried milk?
Low-quality goods are the main problem for Italia Mia’s business. The Russian consumer is not sufficiently informed. People in Moscow often think that if imported goods are sold in a presentable supermarket, then there is no way they can be counterfeit. Pierangelo believes that it would be a good idea to organise special master-classes for consumers, and surveys of goods,there and then, in the supermarkets. On the whole, authentic produce is available in the premium stores: Bahetle, Globus Gurme and Azbuka Vkusa. Clients value them for their quality, and, as a rule, you won’t come across any counterfeits there. Nor will you encounter them in the best Italian restaurants in Moscow, with which Italia Mia work.
– The head-chefs there have undergone the appropriate training: they know how to distinguish a genuine Italian product, - explains Pierangelo. – Furthermore, our goods always carry a certificate confirming that they have gone through all the proper stages of quality control.
Taking on the budget chain-stores is something that the Italians haven’t yet managed to do. First of all, the cost of the “entrance fee” is too high. And, secondly, such shops are aimed at a particular price-bracket. Genuine Italian produce, made by hand or with some kind of special equipment cannot, in principle, belong to such a category. Furthermore, costs associated with customs clearance and transportation cannot but have an effect on the price. What in Italy costs, say, 10 euros, sells already in Moscow for 25-30. The price rises immediately by two to three times. And not only because importing is so expensive. According to Russian regulation, for example, a certificate is required for each variety of celebrated Italian pasta: and there are dozens of them! The dough, the packaging may be the same, but, in one instance, the pasta is long and thin, and, in another, it has been made into small shapes. And, in each instance, a separate certificate is required! The same goes, let’s assume, for salami. For however many producers there are of this sausage: that is the number of certificates which need to be purchased. It is precisely such certification which inflates prices. With this, even Russia’s entry into the WTO hasn’t helped. Which ends up with such products seeming to be to Muscovites a little on the dear side. What is more, not everyone understands how they differ from the mass-produced brands which stuff the shelves of the capital’s supermarkets.
What in Italy costs, say, 10 euros, sells already in Moscow for 25-30. The price rises immediately by two to three times.
– Pasta, for example, to a Russian, is macaroni, spaghetti! – says Pierangelo with a smile. – And, often to a Muscovite, it makes no difference where it has been made. Especially when the shelves are groaning with all kinds of products, either imported or domestically produced. Faced by such an enormous choice, people just feel lost.
But amongst Muscovites, the number of those who appreciate “authentic Italian” is on the rise. Many travel around Italy on holiday and, when they are back home, they want a taste of “Sardinian sunshine” provided in Moscow by the suppliers Italia Mia. They no longer allow themselves to drizzle their speciality salad with sunflower oil rather than olive oil. Pierangelo considers this part of his service.
To cultivate in Russians a taste for Italy’s gastronomic culture is the company’s strategic aim. The better it is understood in Russia where and how to use Italian food, the steadier the demand for it will be. Deliveries are growing steadily. 15-20% a year, on average. Muscovites prefer to dine and socialise outside of the home more and more.
– Good Italian restaurants are the calling cards for our products! –maintains Pierangelo.
Italia Mia no longer operates only in Moscow. Deliveries are made to Ufa, Novosibirsk, and other cities. This is carried out, in the main, by Pierangelo’s Russian partners. He has enough to contend with regarding his compatriots. There are now, incidentally, far more of them, both on social networks, as well as simply around and about. The complicated economic situation at home worries them, and Russia is enticing them. And, amongst them, there are already more than a few who have reached definitive business heights. Pierangelo is even a little afraid of the potential competition.
– It would be better if the crisis in Italy passed, and my compatriots stayed there! – he exclaims.
Pierangelo himself intends to return home, in time. For him, there is a distinct lack of fine weather and warm seas in Moscow. But he and his wife are expecting their first child soon. And the head of the family realises that securing its future is more straightforward here, in Russia, at this moment in time.
Don’t let anybody tell you that it is easy here, that the streets are paved with gold. To become supplier to high-class restaurants and supermarkets, you need high-quality products and competitive prices.
– But don’t let anybody tell you that it is easy here, that the streets are paved with gold, - Pierangelo stresses. – To become supplier to high-class restaurants and supermarkets, you need high-quality products and competitive prices. We have had to compete strongly with other suppliers who are knocking on the same doors. But, as you can see, we have been quite successful.
Pierangelo himself dreams of one day opening an Italian restaurant in Moscow. He is sure he can handle the competition. After all, he is only 38. And, twice a week, he goes to school. To learn Russian.