Ciao, Blueberry!

Italian lady in Johns Creek wins 2015 Flavor of Georgia Award

PHOTO BY ADRIANA COPPOLA
Flavor of Georgia 2015 winner, A&A Alta Cucina Italia Balsamico al Mirtillo.
KATIE VANBRACKLE
Adriana Coppola
Getty Images/iStockphoto
PHOTO BY ADRIANA COPPOLA
Sandwichna
PHOTO BY ADRIANA COPPOLA
PHOTO BY ADRIANA COPPOLA
Bruschettasna
Photo
By KATIE VANBRACKLE
Posted

What happens when a sweet, fresh-off-the-farm Georgia blueberry crosses paths with sophisticated, tangy Italian vinegar? Instant chemistry – and an award-winning flavor.
Italian-born Adriana Coppola, who now lives in Johns Creek, was recently named winner of the 2015 Flavor of Georgia contest for her A&A Alta Cucina Italia Balsamico al Mirtillo, a blueberry balsamic vinegar reduction.

The sweet and tangy concoction not only won in its category (salsas, chutneys and condiments), but went on to sweep the entire competition, being named overall winner out of more than 100 entries.

The Flavor of Georgia competition, hosted annually by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, is designed to spotlight market-ready food made in Georgia and featuring Georgia ingredients, innovative qualities, commercial appeal and originality.

Coppola was surprised to walk away with top honors, aware that her small business was competing against much larger Georgia food companies. But she agrees that her creation is something special.

“Our blueberry balsamic is the perfect blend of white balsamic and blueberries,” Coppola said. “I use white in order to not overwhelm the delicate and sweet flavor originating from the blueberries, and also the beautiful rich dark blue purple hue. The balsamic vinegar adds a nice tartness to the berries while making the flavor a little more complex. It’s an exquisite and unique flavor.”

Coppola says the product is a “luscious accompaniment” to any dish, and can be used as a salad dressing, paired with cheese, served with duck, pork or lamb or drizzled over ice cream, frozen yogurt or cheesecake.

Coppola created the blueberry balsamic to honor “both of her hometowns, in Italy and Georgia.” Her family is originally from the Campania region of southern Italy, specifically Sorrento and Capri, where young Adriana learned to cook by watching her mother and zia (aunt) Sonia at work in the kitchen.

“Since I can remember, I always helped in the kitchen – rolling the handle of my Mom’s old-fashioned Imperia pasta maker, which she gave to me when I got married,” she said. “My favorite dishes that Mom made were cannelloni ripieni di ricotta al sugo fresco, gnocchi al burro e salvia, ravioli alla caprese, eggplant parmigiana, carciofi ripieni (stuffed artichokes), pastiera (a dessert made only in the Napoli area) and chicken alla cacciatora with polenta that my aunt Sonia made always for me.

“What I miss the most about Italian cuisine is the freshness of the ingredients (we usually cooked from what was available that day at the farmers market), and also the lightness and simplicity, but at the same time flavorful dishes. Especially in the south of Italy, we cook with a lot of vegetables and do not use many creamy or heavy sauces. I also miss the grana padano, espresso taken in ceramic little cups at the coffee shop, and the cornetto (croissant), for me always stuffed with Nutella.”

When Coppola was 14, she lived with an American family in the U.S. as an exchange student, an experience her parents wished her to have in order to learn a new culture and language. America was, she says, “always present on my mind.”

In later years, after a divorce, Coppola moved with her two children to Johns Creek where she had previously vacationed for several years. It was an area that was not only familiar, but which she liked very much.

At first, she contented herself with keeping the flavors of Italy alive for her children, cooking favorite dishes at home such as Montanara (a fried pizza typical of Napoli).
Now she shares her talents with a wider audience through her Italian gourmet foods company, named A&A Alta Cucina Italia by blending the first initial of her own name with that of her sister, Angelina, who died nine years ago.

“When I knew I wanted to launch my food product line here in the U.S., I struggled so much with its presentation, how to pack it, how to wrap it, to label it, the colors, everything,” she said. “It was a nightmare since I had the products ready and people were demanding them.

“So I talked a lot in my thoughts with my sister,” she said. “She was an architect with a great gift for decorating and designing, so I started to think, if I was able to talk to Angelina…what would have been her suggestions? So I started using her colors (terra colors) and tried to visualize everything as she would have done it. I decided to call my company A&A, not only so Angelina will be there always to inspire me, but also to honor her, and it’s a way to be together on earth.”

A&A Alta Cucina Italia products can be found in several local stores – visit altacucinaitalia.com for a list. Or head to the Alpharetta Farmers Market on Saturday mornings to meet Coppola and sample her artisan Italian products such as infused extra-virgin olive oils, tomato sauces, pestos, balsamic jams and seasoning salts.

Don’t forget to ask for a sample of her delicious blueberry balsamic, that award-winning flavor that is a bit like Adriana Coppola herself – firmly rooted in Italian tradition while embracing the best Georgia has to offer.

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This month's issue

Farrah Haidar, left, and Hala Yassine, are two of the seven sisters involved in Seven Sisters Scones in Johns Creek, offering their customers a modern take on a traditional breakfast treat.
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