On any given Monday or Tuesday, the founder of Primizie Fine Foods will have up to $100,000 worth of the coveted fungus stashed under lock and key—“security cameras, the whole thing,” he said—in his funky-smelling Bronx warehouse.
Mr. Magazino has put about 94,000 miles on his Audi Quattro over the past two years, delivering the pricey items to high-end restaurants across Manhattan. “We go in, we do the transaction just like a drug deal,” he said. “Put the goods on the scale, everybody sniffs it a little bit.”
His clients have included such trendy eateries as the Waverly Inn, where the truffle-infused macaroni and cheese costs $55—a bargain, if you ask him: “During white truffle season, that’s a tremendous value, probably the lowest price for a dish with fresh truffles in Manhattan.”
He makes most of his deliveries at night. “It’s all about speed,” Mr. Magazino explained en route to Manhattan that evening, The Observer riding shotgun. “The truffles will lose about 10 percent of their weight in 24 hours because they’re about 90 percent water and they shrink rapidly.”
And that means shrinking returns. Musky-scented white truffles, in season from October through December, run between $250 and $2,500 per pound.
“In fact, when I put them on the scale before we left, it said 1.69,” Mr. Magazino pointed out. “When those came in this morning, they were 1.73. So, already, I’m down about $75.”
His present supply wasn’t his best, he conceded, predicting that some of the more discerning chefs along his route would likely balk at the size of them. Sure enough, his initial stop at Daniel proved fruitless; one chef liked the smell of Mr. Magazino’s truffles, another not so much. He figured they were probably looking for a bigger batch to use as showpieces.
Later, Mr. Magazino dropped by the home of an Upper East Side billionaire, whose identity the truffle dealer begged to keep under wraps; the billionaire’s personal chef would go on to cherry-pick the biggest of the bunch, nearly a pound, for a total price tag of $2,250.
Next stop: Le Cirque. Mr. Magazino worried that he might be stuck with the rapidly shrinking leftovers overnight.
“We’re going to walk in like we own the place,” he said, parking his car right on Beacon Court.
Grabbing his digital scale and box of truffles from the trunk, he proceeded into the restaurant and onward into the kitchen.
“That’s it?” executive chef Christophe Bellanca asked when examining the remaining 0.68 pounds of the noisome fungus. “For Friday, I need for 20 people.”
Mr. Magazino insisted the truffles were tough to come by that week. At which point one of Mr. Bellanca’s staffers brandished a take-home container full of them.
“Who’s got ’em?” Mr. Magazino asked.
The chef reluctantly named a rival dealer.
“Oh, those are Croatian,” said Mr. Magazino, who deals primarily in Italian truffles.
“Same price?” the dealer asked.
“Same shit,” the chef replied.
“He took ’em, thank God,” the relieved importer said later, after unloading the dregs for a cool $1,311. “I started worrying there at the end that he might change his mind.”