Nonna Pia’s Sells Quality!
Chef Norm honed his cooking skills and great taste for food at a very young age, gleaning almost everything he knew from his mother Pia (“Nonna Pia” to his children). Back then, Pia would always say to him “Norman, you need to learn how to cook because when you grow up you may marry someone who cannot cook”. As Mothers always know best, the passing of time had proven Nonna Pia correct. Norm ended up marrying Natasha who is great at many things – cooking not being one of them. Because of Nonna Pia’s insightful wisdom and her patience in teachings, Chef Norm wanted to name the company after his mother, and that is how “Nonna Pia’s Gourmet Sauces” was born in November of 2010.
Around 20 years ago, on a restaurant tour of Modena, Italy, Norm had the good fortune of tasting 50 year old Balsamic Vinegar straight from the barrels. He fell in love with the deep, rich flavour of Balsamico Traditionale and when he returned to Canada he tried to find more of this nectar of the Gods. Back then, balsamic vinegar was relatively new and unknown in North America, and very difficult to find. If you were lucky enough to find any, it always came at a costly price.
It was at this point, after understanding the painstaking and timely process behind making aged balsamic vinegar, Norm decided to try to emulate its incredible flavour by creating a balsamic reduction himself. In the following years, working from the flavour memory of his positively haunting taste experience in Modena, Italy, Norm perfected his recipe making an incredible Balsamic Reduction that he served mostly to friends and family. After numerous dinner parties, the odd glass of wine and a lot of encouragement from friends and family, Norm and Natasha decided to bottle their Balsamic Reductions and see if anyone would take a chance on buying them. They put their kids to work, at that time Oliver, 2 and Georgia, 4, and they began to make their Balsamic Reductions in their home kitchen. This process included two pots simmering on their kitchen stove, Georgia manning the bottle washing station and Oliver, not to their surprise, offering his expertise in quality control.
The four of them started travelling to various markets and shows over the next year, peddling their wares and finding out that people loved their reductions. The following two years consisted of Norm and Natasha working their regular jobs during the day and borrowing commercial kitchens at night to make these incredible Balsamic Reductions. Before they knew it, Norm had left his day job and Natasha had resigned from her job as a physiotherapist to form the production and sales team for Nonna Pia’s. Both of them now manufacture and sell Balsamic Reductions full time to a select group of exclusive retail stores.
In March of 2014, Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Reductions was chosen to film for the TV series Dragons Den at CBC in Toronto – the big smoke! Off they went to visit hair, makeup and the scary Dragons! In the 5 months following the filming, with some fantastic mentoring and a tough butt kicking from David Chilton (CBC Dragon, who has incredible expertise and passion for growing businesses), they increased their distribution dramatically becoming a staple in every pantry and a household name on many grocery store shelves. Their store count increased from 358 stores to over 1600 stores and their Dragons Den episode had not even been aired on television yet!
Nonna Pia’s now has their own production facility in Whistler, BC (which has recently doubled in size) and it is here where all of their Balsamic Reductions are manufactured. Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Reductions are now sold in specialty shops across Canada and they have recently launched their product into the USA.
A Bright Future!
To finish off, it is important to highlight Norm and Natasha’s children, Georgia and Oliver, and explain their involvement in the growth of Nonna Pia’s. Georgia and Oliver have worked in the business for the better parts of their lives. In the beginning when their reductions were made at home, people knew when Georgia and Oliver had arrived at the local pool as they and their towels would all smell like vinegar!
During the last 5 years, they have spent their weekends working at farmers markets and shows impressing customers with their selling skills. Educating customers on the differentiators of Balsamic Reductions and handling cash and credit cards, both children have been living and breathing balsamic while developing life skills for years to come. Georgia is very particular when training new staff for the farmers markets and shows and Oliver continues to head up Quality Control, tasting every single sample he can get his hands on.