Where the Buffalo Roam and Make the Best Mozzarella in the World
I recently returned from a magical trip to the Southern boot of Italy. Stir crazy, I was and wondering… “Will I ever go on a another trip after my bambino/a comes into this world?!” It was no longer that I could resist the sirens of Sicily, so 6 days later and 6 months pregnant I booked the trip. The Godfather has long been a favorite movie and I dreamt of experiencing Bar Vitelli in Savoca, Sicily where Michael Corleone first sees his Greek maiden. Being Macedonian, I always fantasized that I was Apollonia, well, until she was blown up in the car.
From the food side, I wanted to learn more about the Arabian and Phoenician influence of the island. Italian culture has always captivated me…the language, the languishing lifestyle, the passionate men, the football, the fashion, the naturally gorgeous women and of course the food artisans.
In the coming weeks, you can be sure to hear all of my foodie tales as I always say, “you learn the story of a culture by the food served on the plate.”
Before heading to Sicily, I wanted to stop in Naples to experience the real Pizza Napoletana and I visited the Amalfi coast to taste the true mozzarella di bufala, or buffalo mozzarella. The famous cheese comes from the Cilento Region where in the village of Capaccio Scala you can have taste at what some say is the best buffalo milk farm in Italy. It is just an hour and a half from Amalfi.
The farm to visit is the organic farm of Tenuta Vannulo. BE SURE to make an appointment for a tour and to reserve the amount of mozzarella you’d like to buy in advance. They sell their famous cheese only to the public at a maximum of 5 kilo per person, same price for everyone. They only make 300 kilos a day so to get your hands on some you must reserve days in advance. Since I didn’t know the rules, we arrived unannounced and luckily I was able to plead for scraps, and thus received 3 golf ball sized morsels of mozzarella on a simple plate with a plastic fork. The moment I took a bite the burst of milky fluid cascaded into my mouth, a fountain of lactation heaven.
One of the biggest shockers was that the texture of Italian mozzarella di bufala is almost rubbery…. ! It varies so much from the mozzarella cheese we are accustomed to in the U.S. Ours is often a mixture of buffalo and cows milk, but even the 100% buffalo cheese imported to the U.S. is soft. So imagine my surprise when I tasted what is known as the best in Italy and it was a bit stringy, and dare I say chewy compared to our burrata style buffalo mozzarella in the States.
After a little research, I got to the bottom of the difference in the cheese I am more familiar with and this more rubbery counterpart. In the States, buffalo mozzarella is often shipped and and therefore, it is stored in the water for days and up to weeks lending itself to the soft burrata style. From the Italian perspective, this softening makes it a flawed product. Now don’t get me wrong, the imported mozzarella cheese to America is still quite tasty, but it is completely different from its mother and origin.
In addition to the cheese, this farm makes the best yogurt and pudding or budino I’ve ever tasted (try the cereal pudding), along with ice cream, ricotta and whipped cream. To visit the Tenuta Vannulo farm is a true food experience. It is a do not miss and practically worth planning an entire trip to Italy.
If you are interested in technology, Tenuta Vannulo is more than just a farm. It is a cutting edge, state of the art facility that is the first in the world to use robots to milk their buffalo. The buffalo actually volunteer for milking when they are ready without the interception of man, making man more the observer and less the intruder. The 400 buffalo at this farm are treated with homeopathic remedies and the farmers strive for a symbiotic relationship between buffalo, wo/man and environment.
Other fun facts:
The water buffalo is native to India and though it is not exactly clear how they got to Italy, they have been roaming Italy since the 7th century. The stoic creatures prefer the Campania region because it is largely marshy lowlands. The big fellows like to keep their very large hooves wet and were used on farms to help plow since they don’t sink far into swampy land.
Does anyone know a farm in the US that is making fresh buffalo mozzarella? Keep me posted. I am longing for just one more taste.