16th May 2011
In typical Italian business lingo –
“Filippo Morese this friend of mine who owns a Mozzarella factory. Let me explain”.
Positano at 6.30am is positively beautiful. A good tazzina di espresso on the terrace is essential especially when you know there is a treacherous drive ahead among the macho Italians in their beaten up cinquecentos (original ones, I may add) along the Amalfi coastal road.
The GPS is set.
One and a half hours later over a distance of 40kms, stressed and shaking, we arrive at the Caseificio Morese, a beautiful, old building clad with scaffolding, in a little town called Pontecagnano. I didn’t see any buffalo (not even an obligatory pet) and it didn’t smell of a dairy. A small counter with buckets of whey and shiny porcelain white balls of mozzarella in the refrigerated cabinets. Tubs of fresh ricotta di bufala and smoked provola.
Antique photographs stood proudly with the rather modern big LED screen on the wall. Last Italian King Umberto visiting the Caseificio, selection of sepia photos of jacketted men with their berets surrounding bufala in 1800s. Certificates and awards. Then the big red LED number on that screen. A stand alone ticket number machine by the door. A queue to buy today’s fresh mozzarella. Two ladies in white manning the shop and behind the superclean glass wall and sliding door, three beefy Italians tending the mozzarella. Heaven.
Filippo arrives. A relaxed, lean, well dressed gentleman with perfect English. All is revealed. Filippo’s family has owned the farm since 1695. A deed of sale on an aged lambskin parchment is the proof. On the demise of his father, Filippo returned to run the family business after 17 years in the international world of banking and finance.
We are ushered into his office where the obligatory blue overshoes and hair nets were issued.
A quick tour of the factory floor. The process actually starts at 5.am when the bufala milk is heated in big steel tanks. Rennet is added to create the curds. Aroma of freshly heated milk and the nutty smell of rennet filled the air. Big steel tanks of steamy liquor and mozzarella curds on sloped table tops after the “mozzata” phase from where the word mozzarella comes from, which in Neapolitan means “to cut”. Lemon hued whey flowing into buckets to make the creamy ricotta, a byproduct of mozzarella and also once brined, to soak finished mozzarella.
Lightly smoked moza fabulous. The tennis balls of mozzarella are hay smoked for 5 minutes. Delicate brown balls are removed and soaked in brined whey till sold.
There is nothing better than tasting fresh mozzarella.
A tour of the bufala farm, ten minutes away is fascinating. Tucked in a field just minutes from the dairy are 600 heads of buffalo, black curly fur, with little horns and soft, melting brown eyes. All happy and friendly. Filippo has a total of 7 staff at the farm who grow the as much feed as possible, breed buffalo, look after the animals and manage the farm 365 days a year. There is no rest.
What a wonderful life.