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March 19, 2006

A Thing of Beauty... and Sharpness

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't even familiar with the tradition of giving your spouse a gift for your wedding. But, ho buddy, am I all about it tonight!

We've been fans of Berti knives for a number of years. My father first stumbled upon Berti pocketknives while perusing a knife shop in Florence, and they quickly became an obsession. Colleterie Berti has been making traditional Italian knives on the outskirts of Florence since 1895, and they're absolutely beautiful. So when we discovered this past fall that Berti also produces kitchen knives, it was really just a matter of time before we all had them. I kicked off the frenzy by giving one to my father for Christmas. And it continued today, when my sweetheart gave one to me as a wedding present.

Dominic Armato
It's fantastic. There's an incredible old world quality to these knives. The blade is a hefty steel, sharpened to an impressive degree. The handle is made of horn with the traditional Berti symbol inset. It's the kind of instrument of the art that I fully expect will eventually end up in the hands of my grandchildren. There's actually a huge line of Berti kitchen knives, and they're all this stunning. But this isn't a matter of form over function. I did a little test drive with a big hunk of gingerroot I had lying around and ended up with a case of the giggles. The feel is just phenomenal.

Originally, tracking them down took some work, but I'm happy to pass the fruits of my labors along to anybody else who's interested. The exclusive distributor for Berti knives in the United States is a small knife shop in Boston called Stoddard's Cutlery. As far as I can muster, Stoddard's doesn't even have a website. So as tempting as it is to keep this semi-secret to myself, here's the info. The number is 617-426-4187, and they'll be happy to ship anywhere. Everybody I've encountered at Stoddard's has been extremely friendly and helpful, but most of my dealings have been with a fine fellow named Matt. If you call, let him know that Dominic referred you.

An interesting side note: it's a common European tradition that when you're given a knife as a gift, you must give the giver a small coin in return to ensure that your friendship won't be "cut". Thankfully, I remembered and handed my sweetheart a quarter. Otherwise, it may very well have ended up being the worst wedding present ever.

Disaster narrowly averted!

11/27 Update: I wish I could say this is a recent update (hiatus, and all), but I've learned that Berti has a new U.S. distributor, a company called MATCH. Though on a selfish level, I loved knowing that I could call the friendly little neighborhood knife shop in Boston to get my fix, this is certainly great news for Berti, as their knives will now have a nationwide audience. My father recently spotted them at Sur La Table, and the first online retailer is, in a happy coincidence, one of my favorite sites, Unica Home. I'm also told that MATCH will be launching a repair and restoration service for Berti knives come January.


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