Ari’s Pick: Paesano Bread

The traditional bread of Puglia is a big hit here at Zingerman’s

A classic of the Zingerman’s world for well over 25 years now, Paesano bread is one of those rare culinary offerings that seems to be enjoyed equally by serious food folks and those who are comfortable with more mainstream offerings. While I love so many of our other breads—Country Miche, and the Roadhouse in particular right now—the Paesano has long been a favorite of mine. It’s probably my top pick for making bruschetta. The toasting really takes the fantastic flavor up even higher. Because the Paesano holds up well, I’ve taken it on the plane regularly. I have probably taken Paesano to Ethiopia, Slovakia, Ireland, California, and a hundred points in between. Last week I did my first plane trip and my first ZingTrain in-person presentation in 15 months! I packed a half loaf of Paesano to take with me to Texas.

One day, about 25 years or so ago, back when the Paesano was still relatively new to us, I was traveling in the southern Italian region of Puglia. As I always do, I was seeking out a bakery! I can go a long time without really eating a meal, but I have a hard time if I don’t have any bread with me. The most famous bread of the region is the golden semolina loaf of Altamura, which is awesome. What I discovered though is that the bread that many bakeries in the region make is essentially a first cousin of what we here in Washtenaw County call Paesano. With the same great thin crust and pillowy, substantive white crumb, they often make it with olives. We do that at the Bakehouse for “special bakes,” but in Puglia, they leave the pits in (no way that would happen on this side of the Atlantic—too much insurance risk!).

If you’re one of the few folks who don’t yet know it, the Paesano has a thin, gently chewy crust that we dust lightly with organic cornmeal. Inside it has a soft white moist crumb that, as many folks around here will now rattle off without having to think about it, “is great for ripping and dipping.” It’s also got beautiful big holes in the crumb, which is a tribute to the quality of the work done by the Bakehouse bread team—the holes are a sign of good dough development, though they do make the Paesano a more adventurous choice for anyone who wants to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. On occasion, we get complaints about the holes. When that would happen, Frank (now retired co-founder of the Bakehouse) would always smile seriously, and with a subtle wink, say, “Wow! Thank you so much! We work really hard to put those holes in there.”

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Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's | + posts

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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