Anna Fill Interviews
Interview: Rossella Esposito... The Lemon Goddess of Sorrento
Rossella Esposito is an agruminista (an ista of the world of lemons) and the 3rd generation of her family to be working at I Giardini Di Cataldo.
The gardens are famed primarily for their lemons and walnuts. The lemon groves are an oasis situated in the centre of Sorrento. When walking through the giardini (gardens) it is impossible to even notice the hustle and bustle close by, only the intoxicating aroma of the lemon blossom. What is also impossible to notice is the overwhelming passion and pride that Rossella has for her work. She is latest generation Esposito and the only child of Salvatore Esposito.
"My grandfather, Cataldo, started the company with 4 acres of lemon groves and he used to employ 80 people to handle the daily exports of lemons." Rossella tells me.
Left Salvatore Esposito (Photo http://news.xinhuanet.com) Right Cataldo Esposito
"My father Salvatore took over the business in true hereditary fashion, from generation to generation. He loved nature and shared the passion for the gardens and he his determination was to bring the business forward to the 21st century. In 1999 my father founded 'I Giardini Di Cataldo' in honor of my grandfather, and then 18 years ago he began to introduce new lines. We had too many lemons and my father believed it would be a good idea to produce our own Limoncello and other citrus delicacies such as marmalades, ice-creams and preserves." she continues.
How do you make the Limoncello?
"To make the perfect Limoncello it is all about timing. It is important that as soon as the lemons are picked they must be peeled and infused in alcohol with molasses. The alcohol we use is 95/96% proof and then the lemon peel mix rests for 5 to 6 days. Then we make a mixture of cold water and sugar and heat it until the sugar is dissolved and after the solution has cooled which takes about 3 hours, we then add the lemon alcohol mix. When you eventually taste your Limoncello, we recommend that you drink it at room temperature in order to experience all the flavours."
"We love our lemons!"
"We waste nothing! With the rest of the lemons we make marmalades and jams, granitas, ice-cream, lemon babas, preserves and even the peel we use in the barbeque." Rossella emphasises. "We maintain very high standards and to have the quality label 'Pure and Natural' our confitures must contain at least 45% fruit."
How often do you pick the lemons?
"We have 3 or 4 crops a year between December and October. Everything is grown in our 2 gardens and as you can see we produce everything locally and on site here. Everything from preparing the lemons to make the Limoncello, bottling, labelling, fulfilling the orders, marketing, are done by ourselves. We are a true family business. Depending on the time of the year we are between 10 and 15 of us working."
Do you grow and make any other products?
"We also grow walnuts and make our own liqueur. We have it ready by the 24th June to celebrate San Giovanni. It takes 40 days to make and it is 38% proof alcohol. We also have oranges and wild fennel and turn them into liqueurs too. As I said we grow everything in our gardens except for liquorice which we buy from Calabria and then we make our own liquorice liqueur.
We also make the most wonderful Limoncello Babà which contains 14% alcohol. All the jams we make are 100% organic with no additives at all. And of course we make our own ice-cream."
Who buys your Limoncello?
"We sell to our visitors who come to see us in Sorrento and then when they return to their own countries, they come back to us and are able to buy more of our products online through our website. We also sell to a company in Barcelona. We don't do very much marketing and rely on word of mouth. We do have a Facebook Page which we invite you to 'Like'."
A walk around the gardens is so encouraged. The oval lemons typical to the region are pure and organic and no pestisides are ever used. Some of the trees are 150 to 300 years old and the rest around 60 to 70 years old. It is a peaceful and traquil place and must not be missed when you visit Sorrento. But it is Rossella and her warm and charming personality that leaves you feeling very happy and with quite a glow, all helped by the continual samples and tastings of various liqueurs and goodies that are on offer. Rossella has a fabulous sense of humour and embraces everything she does. She believes that her job is the best in the world and she loves every minute of every day. By mid July Rossella will have given birth to another generation in the Esposito family. Auguri!
Never have I met anyone like Rossella with her wonderful energy and zest for life.
I Giardini di Cataldo
Corso Italia, 267
Limoncello di I Giardini Di Cataldo... Cin Cin!