Visiting with a Master Mozzarella Maker

We slipped into Giacomo’s tiny production kitchen early, before the shop opened, for a lesson about making fresh mozzarella and ricotta. Giacomo continues in the profession of his father and grandfather before him. He’s been at it 40 years – he started at his father’s knee when he was 10 years old!

Every morning, except Sunday, Giacomo starts with fresh milk from a local producer and begins the process of separating the curds from the whey and adding rennet to make his beautiful fresh mozzarella. It’s not a cheese native to the area – it’s traditionally made in the south from buffalo milk – but Giacomo brought the tradition with him when he moved to Amelia many years ago from Puglia. He said that when he first arrived in Amelia some thirty years ago no one had even heard of unripe mozzarella – not surprising considering how loyal Italians are to regional specialties and producers.

His shop usually sells out by about 11.30 in the morning, at which time he closes to get ready for the next day’s production. There’s a real joy and pride in Giacomo’s chosen lifestyle, and it shows on his face. Something to be said about doing one thing, really, really well, as opposed to the juggling act many of us perform daily!

The curds become the mozzarella, which he forms into several different shapes. It seems that his customers all have their preferred shape. The whey is transformed into the most delicate, exquisite ricotta which we served at breakfast with chestnut honey. Ambrosia!

Giacomo entertained us with his cheese sculpting skills, making a pig and an elephant out of the warm mozzarella! At Christmas he apparently fashions an entire Nativity scene out of cheese, which he displays in the window, Baby Jesus and all! It’s a tradition of his father’s that he continues. What I wouldn’t give to see that!

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