This is the Monti Lattari mountain range of Mount Vesuvius in Campania, where farmer Sabatino Abagnale grows two very special types of tomatoes: Antichi Pomodori di Napoli and Pomodorini delle Colline dei Monti Lattari. He lovingly calls them Miracolo di San Gennaro Tomatoes and Small Tomatoes.
They are heritage tomatoes. As the origin story goes, in Sabatino’s words, “I worked with an 80-year-old who knew everything about farming, zio Angelo. He found the seeds of the tomatoes that used to grow on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and together we rescued these ancient tomato varieties.”
They are sustainable tomatoes. No machinery is allowed on the Monti Lattari hilly tomato fields. From the seeding to the harvest, Sabatino takes care of his tomatoes as farmers in his region have for centuries: entirely by hand.
They are not pelati. On the contrary! Farmer Sabatino jars them with their skins still on. He swears that their delicate skins are the most flavorful part. And he’s not alone: these tomatoes are many Italian chefs’ best kept secret.
They are aged. Sabatino believes that tomatoes are like wine, requiring the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. Like wine, he ages his tomatoes in a cellar underground for sixty days, to allow the flavors to develop.
Their production is extremely limited. In Sabatino’s words: “I don’t have enough land to scale up. In Campania we don’t have the space to increase the quantity of our production, instead we have to work on the quality of the products. Big numbers are not for us.”