Buyers Select:
Gessica Guidi
(Guidi Marcello, USA)
Edition 15
The editorial staff of "Food & Wine Italia" curates the Buyers Select editorial series, giving the floor to international buyers who promote Italian culinary culture and its high-quality products abroad. In these interviews, leading figures of the international Taste community will share passions, stories, and reflections to take stock of the food and wine market's future and discover the most exciting companies at the Fortezza and on Pitti Connect.
Gessica Guidi grew up in Santa Monica, the icon of California beachfronts, in the continent where mainstream culture has succeeded in “Americanizing” some pasta dishes that are a source of amusement for Italians, from Spaghetti and meatballs to Macaroni and cheese. And yet, her father Marco never denied her the enjoyment of dishes like ribollita or herb quiche, even if the Guidi family left Lucca way back in 1945, a good two generations before hers. Today, Guidi Marcello Ltd. is a solid reality for the import and wholesale distribution of Italian goods, which is specialized in many product types from mineral waters, to wine and beer, regional extra virgin olive oils, vinegars, San Marzano tomatoes, cheeses, deli meats, pasta, and cookies, without ever losing sight of the most trending products of the moment.
Which are the 5 most interesting exhibitors for you that are attending Taste? Why?  Could you give us a brief comment about each one?
It’s not easy for me to answer this question. There are too many. The most important thing for us is our rapport with the people who manage the companies. If I really must choose only five, here are my choices: Pastificio Agricolo Mancini - Fratelli Lunardi - Salcis - SaviniSgambelluri
When did your business start?  How would you describe its activities today?
In 1959, in Ethiopia, where my father Marco Guidi lost his father, Marcello, at the age of 19 and was forced to take over his family’s business so he could continue to take care of his mother and two little brothers, who were aged only 8 and 2 years. In the period that followed, the company grew quite a lot and started importing well-known Italian brands. In 1976, with the revolution in Ethiopia, my father decided to move to California, and more specifically Los Angeles, where the culture of eating well was still light years behind. At that time, it was usually only possible to find Italian restaurants that served stereotypical dishes with no authenticity, like Spaghetti and meatballs, Macaroni and cheese and the notorious Fettuccine Alfredo. He started up his business by choosing a strategic warehouse, which was well-ventilated by the Santa Monica ocean breeze, and began by importing Sicilian white wine in large one and a half liter bottles. 
Who is your typical client?  Is the business mainly aimed at B2B or B2C? 
Our sales were first mainly destined for wholesale business and restaurants. We then branched off by selling to gourmet shops, all the way up to opening a store in our own company where we organize catering and satisfy the needs of chefs and private clientele. Customers who come to us, thanks to word of mouth.
How has the vision of Italian cuisine and its products changed abroad? How do they differ from local products?
I like to think we were pioneers in importing many typical Italian products, even if everything was not always perfect. I believe that, starting in the 80’s, Italian immigration to the USA increased just like the culture of travelling did, creating a desire in American citizens to discover Italy. Naturally, the magical world of the internet made many products available, eliminating borders and making deliveries quicker. 
What do you believe is an Italian product still relatively unknown in your country, which is worth introducing?
Genuine tortellini from Bologna. It is very difficult to find them with the right recipe here in the USA, and so far, it has not been possible to import them because of restrictions on importing European meats. In my ideal list, I would also include olive ascolane and, since my family is of Tuscan origins, I would like to see more wild boar deli cuts on the table, a true delicacy. 
Have you recently detected a particular interest in the topic of sustainability, in environmental/ethical as well as economic terms?
Germans are becoming increasingly interested in this topic. They are asking the government and companies to intervene in this sense more often. However, the process is taking place slowly. With regard to foodstuffs, it is clear that meat farming and consumption are subjects that divide opinion. The most attentive consumers continue to look for transparency and demand better information about the origin of the products. The sustainability of the packaging, nutritional values and healthy well-labeled ingredients also play an important role. 
Looking to the future of the food and wine market: in your opinion what will be the trends?
My feeling is eating and drinking healthily and well will make headway. The culture of wine, for example, has come quite far. Today, those who sit down to eat are informed and it's no coincidence that many TV programs are created with the intent of answering this growing interest. I’ve noticed with pleasure how behind the counter of bars, they no longer use pre-made mixes and bartenders prefer fresh and natural aromas and ingredients for mixing their cocktails. 
Which are Taste’s main elements of distinction and value compared to other events?  How important is the return to in-person participation at events of this kind?
I was invited to the first edition ten years ago. I remember my enthusiasm in discovering many niche companies, with profiles very similar to the ones we sell today. It was almost like participating in a treasure hunt. I am sure I will rediscover the same fair I remember quite fondly. Every event is different and for me it’s important to discover new companies, while reinforcing our relations with those we already consider friends. 
“Posti del cuore-Places of the heart” at Taste: what is your favorite venue (coffee bar, shop, wine store, etc.)  in Florence?
It’s been many years since I’ve been back to the city. When I am here, I really like going to the historic Procacci but also Caffè Gilli, the restaurant Baldovino, l’antica vineria I Fratellini, and the Trippaio del Porcellino for its legendary lampredotto sandwich.