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On-line shopping site brings Italian food, lifestyle products to Japan


A new online shopping site was launched on Thursday, featuring a new concept in shopping for genuine Italian food and lifestyle products.

The website ( features products selected by Elio Orsara, owner of the restaurant Elio Locanda Italiana established 15 years ago in the Tokyo Kojimachi area. Orsara said he has personally selected the products, responding to what he thinks is his mission in Japan: introducing everybody to the authentic Italian taste and culture.

Orsara said there is a gap between the real Italian taste and the image that the general Japanese public has of it. Products like Parmesan cheese or olive oil are now being produced in many different areas of the world and are quite easy to find in our supermarkets. Nevertheless, olive oils that are not produced in Italy but still are marked with the Italian flag, or Parmesan cheese whose taste is completely differently from what it should are widespread, he said.

Markets exploit the popularity of Italian cuisine and Italian sounding names are used to better commercialize products which in no way are Italian, with the obvious results of manipulating their authenticity in the kitchen and on the shelves of grocery stores and supermarkets throughout Japan, Orsara said.

The core of the selected products comes from relatively small, family-run companies that work with passion and are very attentive to preserving and carrying on their local traditions. Orsara himself visited them and choose only selected products that made him proud as an Italian and that are representative of the real Italy, etched with a long history, and of the producers' firm and earnest attitude toward work.

Some of the products are being imported in Japan for the first time, and also special attention has been devoted to preserving freshness. Fresh products like mozzarella cheese will come by order directly from Italy several times a week, allowing consumers to enjoy in the comfort of their home the same taste and freshness they could find shopping in an Italian “gastronomia” shop.

The real Italy is not only food, though. Vera Italia will offer a selection of Italys wide craftsmans products, and customers will be able to browse and shop for select items as they would do in an Italian “bottega” artisan`s boutique, while learning about the history and traditions behind every piece and receiving advice on how to enjoy at the best their favorite items. From artistic Murano glasses still produced on the famous venetian island with methods that date back centuries ago, to elegant and finely designed pieces of Italian jewelry, the best of Italian local tradition will be just a click away.

“My work is to put Italian culture on the plate. Thats why I dont want to tell lies or serve the customers pale imitations of the real products," said Orsara.

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Good idea, but these types of venturs can only cater to a few who can afford. The majority will never learn or understand from this.

In Britain i can by authentic products from around the world at avry reasonable price. Japan is way behind in this aspect and i can imagine many Japanese complaining that the produce dosn`t taste right etc.

I remembr last time i was in UK, Asda had 1 litre bottles of Italian cold press olive oil for 1.99 (approx 260 Yen), maybe deals like this would entice regular folk to sample real Italian products.

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I wish Elio Orsara all the best, authenticity is important to a certain sector of Japanese consumers, and price although a consideration is not the reason they buy products like these.

For the past four years we have run weekly food workshops that focucs on authentic food ingredeints & beverage from Australia in Japan, some products have worked, some failed, but we found that when you educate a few, they go on to influnce others.

For anyone that works everyday with Japanese consumers rather than passive observers with preconvided ideas will know that what Mr Orsara is doing is just one very important part of a smart business establisment in Japan. I meet exporters regulary that can not comprehend Japanese consumers are different to the consumers in the UK or US.

An example of how it can work, a person that attended one of our first workshops has gone on to become a caterer for corporate events and still buys from us, she sells the authentic theme to her customers.

I recomemend those with a interest in reaching Japanese consumers browse

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I too am equally frustrated when Japanese companies think that 'authentic' means they can jack up prices 5-fold. I saw some cheeses in UK which cost about 2 pounds. A few months back, they were being imported here and were being sold at 2000 yen. Now, how 2 pounds (300yen maximum) turned into 2000 yen, I'll never know.

Some of the stuff at Tesco's here aren't too bad, compared to Japanese products, but still, they're double the price compared to the UK, eg the biscuits. And I am NOT paying 200 yen for a can of baked beans. Last year, they were selling Indian mangoes for 400 yen. Please don't tell me they sell them for even half that price back in India.

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pukey2, I need to find baked beans now Peacocks have stopped selling the Waitrose ones. The import stuff here is a rip off except for Gyoum Super, i love that place.As for italain stuff the afore mntioned shop i bought decent balsamic vinegar 500 ml for 400Y, and cold press 500l Italian olive oil for 495Y.

Japan needs import foods as a norm, not as a luxury for the rich.

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Wow, their prices are high - almost 1000 yen for a ball of mozarella, come on. Plus, I don't see much variety. Why does normal food have to be expensive?

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"Parmesan cheese"

This is a good way to enjoy the flavor of cheese without all the calories & fat.

Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on your spaghetti or your scrambled eggs, adding just a few calories/fat.

I recommend Crystal Farms brand, which is priced at around half that of Kraft, yet tastes exactly the same.

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The reason why some foreign food is so expensive is often that it is only imported in small quantities and by small companies. This creates a significant overhead in shipping cost and administrative overhead. It is all the same when you compare the cost of Japanese food abroad. Prices come down quickly when the major distributors start to pick up certain articles.

Sarge, I recommend you to order some Parmesan from Orsara's shop to taste the difference to the stuff you wrote about...

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2940 yen for scalia anchovies???

That's absurd. I paid 750 yen at my local super here in backwater hokkaido, and even then I thought I was paying too much.

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2940 yen for scalia anchovies???

I object, your honor.

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gonemad, I recommend you blind taste-test Crystal Farms Parmesan cheese and that more expensive stuff from Orsara's shop so you can realize that you're wasting money.

I also recommend Un prodotto italiano brand canned whole tomatoes. 78 yen for a 400g can. If your supermarket doesn't carry it, tell them to start now.

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They're 'avin a laugh with those prices...

Try Kaldi ...

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