Sometimes your lucky stars align and you find yourself in a secret garden tucked away in a medieval Italian town where a man named Mario
stands, stretching fresh mozzarella
before your very eyes.
This way to secret garden
Our friends Frank and Mike invited us to a gig they were playing at the lovely Rosso Vino Giardino
. As luck would have it, there was a special mozzarella making/tasting event as well that evening.
We arrived and were promptly greeted with an antipasti board laden with salumi, cheese, melon, and sundried tomatoes. Our glasses were filled, friends were made, and compliments went out to our gracious host, Pierre Luca
, and Francesco
, the man responsible for our lush surroundings.
Francesco the Gardener
Thanks to Francesco’s green thumb, everywhere you looked, fruit and veggies flourished. What better way to enjoy a glass of wine, than under a bountiful pear tree?
Now that’s a loaf
We cut some bread from the largest loaf I’ve ever laid eyes on, and got to work on tasting some mozzarella!
Mozzarella seasoned with Chili Powder
Mario had brought a sampling of cheeses from his family’s agriturismo Colle dell’Unna
in Calabria where the Fonsi family runs Azienda Agricola Nicola Fonsi
, a cheese factory, oil mill, and farm.
We feasted on an array of mozzarella, ricotta, and pecorino, over bread liberally soaked in organic extra virgin olive oil and homemade nduja
(a typical Calabrese spreadable salumi).
While we noshed, Mozzarella Mario gave us an up close and personal view of how one of Italy’s most beloved cheeses is made. Starting with large pieces of compressed cheese curd from the milk of the Fonsi’s happy cows, Mario proceeded to break them down into small crumbled pieces. He then added a few ladles of boiling water from this massive cauldron.
He stirred it all together, allowing the hot water to melt the curd into an elastic mass. Adding some cool water to the mix so he could handle the cheese, Mario then began to knead it into a cohesive blob. Then he began to stretch and twist the cheese, carefully dipping it into the cauldron every once in a while, until it was the perfect consistency. He formed little balls of mozzarella, dropping them into a bucket of cool water to rest for a bit before they were quickly plucked out and devoured while still warm inside.
It’s amazing how a few simple, quality ingredients (curd + water + salt) can be transformed into something so delicious with just a little prodding, a little muscle, and a lot of love.
Concert in the garden
We sat back and relaxed, happily sated on a belly full of minutes-fresh mozzarella, vino rosso
, and cool summer night breezes.
Sealing the deal
By the end of the night, Mozzarella Mario and Hua were fast friends. Apparently my first born son is to be named Mario, after his Calabrese godfather, naturally. It’s unclear, but I am also fairly certain that for every kilo this child weighs, we shall receive a gift of the Fonsi’s prized caciocavallo
equal in weight. 10 kilos of baby? 10 kilos of cheese. Only 6 kilos of baby? Sorry, only 6 kilos of cheese. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but then I think he instructed me to eat a peach for breakfast in order to move things along on my end.
Mom, if you’re reading this, sorry to disappoint you, but no, I am not subscribing to Mozzarella Mario’s family planning tips anytime soon, despite his enthusiasm. One day though, a big baby will be in our cards, and when that day comes, there shall be a cheese feast for all.
ADDRESSESRosso Vino Giardino
Corso Garibaldi, 21
06100 Perugia, Italy
Tel: +39 0825 829 070
Colle dell'Unna / Azienda Agricola Nicola Fonsi
Tel: +39 0983 62365
Cell: +39 339 4934152