We’re always on the lookout for ways to simplify our lives. So when we heard about Cibus, an online gourmet Italian grocery store in Budapest that delivers, it seemed almost too good to be true: just click on some items, empty your electronic shopping cart, and then sit back and have someone else round up and bring home boxes of pasta and chunks of parmigiano.
Things didn’t start off that simply, though. After several unsuccessful attempts to register on the site, we ended up calling Bartolomeo La Cava, the Sicilian expat who owns the company.
He was very friendly, charming even, as he explained how he started the site in June 2007. He is eager to make Hungary a happier place thanks to the benefits of good olive oil and cheese.
Unfortunately, we struggled a bit registering even after two phone conversations. After we succeeded, we still had to maneuver through a site that is both difficult to navigate and spectacularly ugly. (Perhaps this shouldn’t be a big surprise, as the site is “Powered by NonoSoft WEBENGINE;” apparently “Yesyes” Webengine’s services weren’t available.)
La Cava acknowledged that the site isn’t highly trafficked; since it launched Cibus has received 8,000 hits. Though they’re managing to deliver three to five orders per weekday. “We are growing every day,” La Cava said optimistically.
However, Cibus also doesn’t take bank or credit cards, which might seem usual in the Hungarian web-world, but certainly isn’t universal; the sleek and deliciously functional website of delivery-only I Love Sushi, for example, has been taking plastic happily for years.
Meanwhile, even when the szállító arrived with our order, he didn’t bring the appropriate change. Also note that for orders below Ft 15,000 (roughly €60) there is a Ft 800 delivery charge. In the end, though, Cibus delivered, and on time.
Like a good Italian, La Cava has both pizazz and advice to accompany his offerings: “I think people need to improve their behavior and be happier … People today are in offices, so the diet should change a little. Eliminate animal fat and introduce what I think is the best fat, extra virgin olive oil. It is a good fat. It is healthy and tasty and of course it is the base of the Italian cuisine.”
Many of Cibus’ products can be found at a local gourmet or even local grocery shops, but his edge in the market is that some – certain Italian dried meats and fresh fish – are not readily available. We can’t vouch for the fish, but La Cava promised it is delivered fresh from the Adriatic twice weekly (Tuesdays and Thursdays are apparently the best days to order.)
As for the prices, a glance suggests that they are in-line with other local retailers, and some items appear to be quite a bargain. But to be sure, we’d have to leave home and go shopping. Since the point of the project was to spend less time hauling fermented lemons up flights of drafty stairs, I’d say we’ll be ordering from Cibus again – even if they keep saying yesyes to the graphically-challenged designers at NonoSoft.