Italy’s hot summer and dry fall could see supplies in some regions reduced by 90 percent.
Photographer: Herbert Lehmann/StockFood
During a bumper year for Italian white truffles, one of fine dining’s most precious (read: expensive) ingredients, San Francisco chef Michael Tusk can get practically profligate with the aromatic mushrooms. He’ll even use them to top pizza.
“This is probably not a year for that,” says the chef and co-owner of Cotogna and the three-Michelin-starred Quince.
“Prices have doubled,” says Vittorio Giordano, vice president of Urbani Truffles, a major importer.
Each fall, truffle aficionados around the globe pay dearly to have the lumpen tubers shaved atop risotto, scattered on pasta, and draped onto sushi. But white truffles are finicky. Resistant to farming and highly perishable, they grow wild in forests, are hand-hunted by men with trained dogs or pigs, and are available fresh only from September into December. In 2016, there was an abundance of truffles, and prices plunged, but a hot summer followed by a dry fall this year have made for a dramatically smaller harvest this season.
Fortunato Nicotra, executive chef at New York’s Felidia, came by “great truffles” at around $1,300 a pound in 2016, he told Bloomberg. This year, he is paying $2,800 to $3,200 a pound for golf ball-sized tubers. (“I can’t go with a little chickpea to shave in the dining room,” he says of the smaller, less-expensive pickings.) Larger sizes are rarer, and anything weightier than 40 grams can cost several hundred dollars more per pound, he says.