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Seattle’s legendary Salumi has new owners (bye bye Batali) and a new location

(Aaron CC images)

Salumi is a Seattle institution, a beloved cured meat producer and sandwich shop in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood with a perpetual line down the block. It was opened by chef Mario Batali’s dad, Armandino Batali, 20 years ago. And his grandfather opened Seattle’s first Italian grocery in the same neighborhood more than 100 years ago. But the deli is experiencing some big changes. It was recently sold to Martinique Grigg and Clara Veniard, who now claim to be the only women in the country to own a charcuterie shop.

“This was really a passion project for Armandino,” said Grigg. “He was a Boeing engineer for many years and when he was ready to retire, he had always wanted to do something in food and had a passion for cured meats. So he actually spent some time in Spain and Italy really learning the craft. Then about seven years ago he sold [the business] to his daughter, Gina.”

Gina Batali and her husband still retain a portion of the business, but the bulk was sold to Grigg and Veniard.

Besides the new ownership, there is another big change. This week Salumi is moving out of its famously narrow and cramped space into a bigger shop where staff and customers will both have some breathing room. But don’t worry, the new deli is only a few blocks away (404 Occidental Ave S), in a historic brick building with plenty of character and charm. With all the change and growth Seattle has been experiencing, some of us worried that this nationally recognized, beloved institution might not evolve for the better. But upon meeting the new owners, who are joyful and passionate, savvy and hospitable, my doubts instantly evaporated. I asked Grigg if they worry about regulars reacting negatively to the changes.

“Yeah, we are worried about it. The reason we got involved in Salumi is because we have been long time customers who love the experience, love the brand and we want to preserve that going forward. So we understand why people might raise an eyebrow and sort of be like, ‘What’s going to happen?’ So that’s why, honestly, we took a year to apprentice in the business, learn everything and make sure that we can be responsible in carrying the legacy forward and evolving this in a way that really honors what the Batali’s have built. So we have actually been really surprised at how positive the response has been. There’s definitely a little, ‘Don’t mess it up!'” she laughed.

Salumi’s salamis and cured meats have always been handmade in the back of the shop. But the new space will solely house the deli and the old space will be used for production, which will give them a lot more room to cure more meat. And if you’ve never been to Salumi…

“We’re very famous for our sandwiches, we have both cold and hot sandwiches,” said Veniard. “We have a special sauce that we put on [cold sandwiches] with garlic and anchovies and bread crumbs, it’s really delicious. Then we have our hot sandwiches, our porchetta and we also have this ginormous meatball sandwich. It’s a baguette with three meatballs on it and tomato sauce. You can practically not fit your mouth around it. It’s so delicious.”

Before partnering up to buy Salumi, Grigg was CEO of The Mountaineers and Veniard worked at the Gates Foundation and Amazon. Both are food lovers who have spent time truly educating themselves on the art and history of salumi, the Italian word for cured meats like salami and prosciutto.

To hear more about the history of salumi, listen to my podcast Your Last Meal, featuring actor, cookbook author and Cooking Channel host, Tiffani Thiessen.

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