The San Marzano D.O.P.

The San Marzano D.O.P.

December 2023

San Marzano tomatoes are an Italian specialty. Grown in the Sarnese Nocerino Region of Italy, outside of Naples in the volcanic soil of Mt. Vesuvius, the climate, nutrientrich soil, and sun all contribute to what makes these tomatoes so special. Sweet, delicate, low in acidity, and containing less seeds than other plum tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes must have foliage that covers the fruit and scalar maturation. To be suitable to be canned, San Marzano tomatoes must also have specific characteristics, including a red color typical of the variety, easy detachment of the cuticle, a pH that does not exceed 4.5, a length between 6080mm, and compact and fleshy pulp. In fact, these tomatoes are so delicate that it takes 6 hours to match the quantity produced by standard whole peeled tomatoes in 1 hour.  

Fred Mortati and Antonio Spatuzzi, the head of production at Ciao, in a San Marzano field with Mt. Vesuvio behind them.

To protect the integrity and origin of this special seed, true San Marzano tomatoes are given DOP certification. This guarantees that tomatoes with the DOP seal adhere to strict guidelines regarding where and how they are grown and processed.   

Since the USA does not regulate DOP items to ensure authenticity, fake San Marzano tomatoes run rampant, making it imperative that you know how to identify a true San Marzano. In Italy, the Consorzio of San Marzano producers approves every single label that is printed and put on San Marzano tomatoes. To get around this so they can use the term “San Marzano” as a marketing strategy, many manufacturers from Italy send unlabeled cans of regular Whole Peeled tomatoes to America and print their labels here. “San Marzano Style,” “San Marzano Certified,” and “Italian Style” are all key terms often used to mislead consumers into purchasing regular whole peeled tomatoes at a higher cost. In foodservice, San Marzano tomatoes must be packaged in 3kg cans, which are smaller than the standard #10s. This means that those buying fake San Marzano tomatoes are being cheated into paying more money for less quantity of a standard whole peeled tomato. If you do not see the exact phrase “S. Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese Nocerino D.O.P.” on the label or the seals of the Consorzio and DOP, we can almost guarantee they are fake. At Ciao, we strive to only bring you only the highest quality and legitimate San Marzano DOP tomatoes.

the Ciao San Marzano DOP label with an arrow pointing out the necessary seals and numbers that identify it as legitimate.

It’s unfortunate that the integrity of the San Marzano tomato is not honored outside of Italy. Many people say that they grow their own, but it’s more than just the seed that makes these tomatoes so unique. The soil and climate cannot be replicated outside of the Sarnese Nocerino region. They are a true Campanian delicacy that we fight every day to protect. On the Consorzio’s website, you’ll find CMDO (Compagnia Mercantile D’Oltremare S.r.l.), our Ciao Factory, listed! 

CMDO (Compagnia Mercantile D'Oltremare) logo

Next time you go to purchase a San Marzano tomato, make sure you’re getting the real deal. 

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