Lap of Luxury: Calvisius Caviar

- For this edition of the Lap of Luxury, we visited Calvisius to see how fine Italian caviar is made and toured its facility and vault in Fairfield, New Jersey.

Calvisius USA President Lelio Mondella says the name Calvisius comes from an ancient Roman who loved the nature and environment where he lived. In the 1970s, Calvisius Caviar started in that same area, known for its great natural spring water.

Today, there are two farms producing all of the Calvisius caviar in the world: one is 20 miles south of Brescia and another 30 miles west of Milan.

The company is 100 percent Italian and is probably the most important caviar company grading sturgeon today, according to Mondella.

It produces around 25,000 kilos of caviar a year from 6 different species. A 1.8-kilo tin of Calvisius starts at around $7,000 and takes years to produce.

Mondella says you have to be patient with sturgeon, love the fish, and take care of the fish like children because it takes a minimum of 8 years to produce roe. That is why, he says, caviar is so expensive, because it takes a lot of time which has a value.

Once the roe is extracted, it needs to be mixed with salt, packed in tins, and placed in temperature-controlled vaults to being the maturation process. Maturation, Mondella explains, is the activity that happens when the salt contacts the roe. Oil is produced. It mixes with the roe, which evolves into caviar, which Mondella calls a living product. Maturation takes a couple of months.

When caviar orders come in, the original tin is opened and repacked in smaller vacuum-sealed tins to be sent off to customers.

Each one-ounce tin, precisely packed, costs between $70 and $200, depending on the quality. That tin's label tells you everything you need to know about the fish: its classification, color, and origin. Mondella says all of the fish are chipped, which enables them to trace the entire life of the sturgeon.

Calvisius stores 200 to 300 kilos in the vault in New Jersey waiting to be sent to fine food stores such as Eataly, Wolfgang Puck's restaurants, and airlines such as Lufthansa, Singapore, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and Air Nippon, which all serve Calvisius to their first-class customers.

Mondella was kind enough to open a few original tins for our visit, including Russian sturgeon, genetically from the Caspian Sea, but sustainably farm-raised in Italy. Mondella says it is very nice caviar, with a good diameter and size, with virtually no smell. Fresh pure caviar, he says, should have very little aroma.

I tasted the Russian sturgeon, white sturgeon, and rare sevruga. All were delicious and elegant, sustainably raised and shipped to us direct from Calvisius in Italy.

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