Made in Georgia: Alta Cucina brings the flavors of Italy to Johns Creek

Alta Cucina Italia’s Georgia Peach Balsamic Vinegar was inspired by fresh produce from local farmers. It was a 2020 winner in the University of Georgia Flavor of Georgia competition.
Courtesy of Alta Cucina Italia
Alta Cucina Italia’s Georgia Peach Balsamic Vinegar was inspired by fresh produce from local farmers. It was a 2020 winner in the University of Georgia Flavor of Georgia competition. Courtesy of Alta Cucina Italia

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Adriana Coppola grew up in a small town near Naples, Italy. When she moved to Johns Creek, she and her family missed the flavors of home, so she started her company, Alta Cucina Italia, offering artisan condiments and sauces made Italian-style.

“Basil-infused olive oil was the first thing we made,” she said. “It was what my kids and I missed the most when we moved here.”

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Alta Cucina Italia’s Vidalia onion balsamic jam won the 2018 Flavor of Georgia competition and a 2018 Good Food award. Courtesy of Alta Cucina Italia
Alta Cucina Italia’s Vidalia onion balsamic jam won the 2018 Flavor of Georgia competition and a 2018 Good Food award. Courtesy of Alta Cucina Italia

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Her first retail sales came at the Decatur Farmers Market, and within a few months she was selling at two Wednesday farmers markets, one on Thursdays, another on Fridays and four on Saturdays.

Seasonal fruits from farmers inspired her to create new flavors, like her blueberry balsamic vinegar and her Georgia peach balsamic vinegar, a 2020 winner in the University of Georgia Flavor of Georgia competition. That’s not her only award winner. Her Vidalia onion balsamic jam won the 2018 Flavor of Georgia competition and a 2018 Good Food award.

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Adriana Coppola is the founder of Alta Cucina Italia, which sells Italian-style artisan condiments and sauces. Courtesy of Alta Cucina Italia
Adriana Coppola is the founder of Alta Cucina Italia, which sells Italian-style artisan condiments and sauces. Courtesy of Alta Cucina Italia

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Conversations with her customers inspired new products, including dipping oils and balsamic jams. “I would have customers come by and say, ‘Oh, I just came back from Italy, and this is just what I’ve been looking for.’ I love helping people experience new flavors and new ways to eat,” Coppola said. “I like to show them that just changing the flavor of vinegar they use in their salad makes such a difference. ‘Take out the lettuce and add spinach, then use the strawberry balsamic.’ Little things they just haven’t thought about.”

Customers began suggesting shops they thought should sell her products, and local shop owners would stop by her booth and want to add her products to their inventory. Eventually, she exhibited at AmericasMart and attracted orders from 350 stores across the country.

That was a huge change, “and it became too much for me to handle,” she said. “I found I was losing my passion for what I was doing. I didn’t know those stores that were selling my products. I learned that it was important to me that my business network felt like a family network.”

The success of her company was keeping her away from her family at a time when her children needed her. “I realized I don’t want my products to be everywhere,” Coppola said. “I wanted a life like in Europe, where people don’t live to be working; they work because they want a good life.”

Scaling down meant giving up all those hundreds of accounts, but it didn’t stop Coppola from continuing to grow her company creatively.

And, she kept her booth at the Heritage Sandy Springs Farmers Market, because it’s a place that feels like family to her.

The newest offering from Alta Cucina Italia is a box with three bottles of olive oil, vinegar or a mix, and easy-to-follow recipes, cooking tips and suggestions for pairings. Courtesy of Alta Cucina Italia
The newest offering from Alta Cucina Italia is a box with three bottles of olive oil, vinegar or a mix, and easy-to-follow recipes, cooking tips and suggestions for pairings. Courtesy of Alta Cucina Italia

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The packaging for every Alta Cucina product is old-world Italian, a counterpoint to the bright, modern flavors. It turned out that designing labels and developing her packaging also was something she has a passion for, and was another way to show her creativity. “I love doing stuff with my hands,” she said. “Probably, it was inspired by my mother, who was a kindergarten teacher. When I first started, I only had enough money to buy the bottles. So, I designed my labels and printed them on craft paper. My kids and I would glue them to the jars and bottles.”

In what might be an example of life coming full circle, when her mother would visit from Italy, they spent hours together cutting out the craft paper circles that go on top of some of the jars.

These days, she’s finding that more people are cooking at home, increasing interest in her products. And, for 2021, she’s put together a subscription service for her olive oils and vinegars. Each Club Box costs $50, and includes three bottles of olive oil, vinegar or a mix, and easy-to-follow recipes, cooking tips and suggestions of pairings for each flavor. It’s a step toward where she’d like to take her company, helping her customers enjoy their time in the kitchen and experiment with new flavors.

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