By Taleesha Jenkins
Special to The Collegian
In Clovis five miles south of Fresno State, the foothills to the Sierras is the view from the patio of indoor farmers market Bella Frutta, filled with people eating fresh locally-grown goods from fruits and vegetables, to meals prepared in 100-percent organic olive oil.
Vegetable grower Vincenzo Ricchiuti ventured from Italy to America in 1914 and began his farming business. After World War II his son, Pat Ricchiuti, returned home and decided to open a roadside stand called Bella Frutta to sell fresh vegetables and fruit grown on his family farm. Nearly 100 years after the venture from Italy, the family continues to serve the Central Valley and the world.
“Vincenzo began the operation,” said Vinci Ricchiuti, vice president of retail. “But under the leadership of Pat, [he] and his son Patrick grew the business.”
Ricchiuti Family Farms is the parent company and under Ricchiuti Family Farms is P-R Farms, which sells its fruit at Bella Frutta.
Different from other farms, P-R Farms, which ships goods all over the world, is the grower, packer and shipper of almonds, tree fruit, stone fruit, citrus, table grapes and raisins.
Vincent Ricchiuti, director of operations for P-R Farms, said 95 percent of almonds the farm produces are exported out of the country. The rest is available at Bella Frutta.
P-R Farms is also the largest organic olive oil producer in the country. Vincent said their 100-percent-organic, estate-grown, extra-virgin Enzo Olive Oil is one of their most popular items. Enzo Olive Oil has won 17 awards based on taste and quality, and Ricchiuti said the oil can also be seen being used by celebrity chef Tyler Florence.
Along with P-R Farms, the family still has their retail store. Located in Clovis on the corner of Willow and Shepherd, Bella Frutta provides fresh food seven days a week.
“Bella Frutta is my family’s retail store for our farm [PR Farms]” Ricchiuti said. “Bella Frutta is our direct-to-consumer avenue for sales.”
Vincent, a fourth generation American, is following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather in helping grow the company.
He is also a third-generation Fresno State graduate, and he said Bella Frutta’s connection with Fresno State stems from staff to produce.
“We have a mix of our own products and we also partner up with Fresno State, we sell Fresno State ice cream, sweet corn, grapes [and] milk,” said Vincent. “Fresno state items are very popular.”
He believes Bella Frutta is a great place for Fresno State students because of their variety of goods and affordable prices.
“Our peaches are $1.99 a pound,” he said. “That’s a lot of peaches for two bucks.”
In addition to being an indoor farmers market seven days a week, on Saturdays and Sundays about eight different food trucks come to the Willow and Shepherd location. Customers are able to shop and eat, while food trucks like “Dusty Bun” offer meals cooked in the store’s award-winning olive oil.
“It’s a great atmosphere out here on the patio with the view of the Sierras,” she said. “Makes it a great spot for young and old alike to enjoy.”
With their close connection to the university, Vinci said Bella Frutta takes pride in the fact that they are constantly hiring Fresno State students to work in their store.
“I like to give students a chance to learn about agriculture and work in a local business,” Vinci said. “They’re good employees.
“They’re eager to learn and energetic.”
Shelby Magee, a pre-nursing major at Fresno State, said she has been working at Bella Frutta for a year. Her responsibilities include customer service and shipping out orders.
“It’s really fun,” Magee said. “We carry a lot of Fresno State products, and it’s all local.”
“We encourage people to come out; your living in the fruit basket of the world,” Vincent said. “You’ll never live in a place where this many different things are grown and produced.”