One of life’s great pleasures is to travel to the Campania region of Italy (Naples and environs) and eat fresh mozzarella di bufala (or, in Neapolitan dialect, muzzarella ‘e vufara), produced that very day, or, at most, the day before. It’s often served with fresh tomato and basil (the insalata caprese) or with thinly sliced prosciutto, but is delicious on its own as well. Even in other parts of Italy, like Milan or Florence, one would be hard-pressed to taste real mozzarella at its finest.
This authentic mozzarella cheese is made from the milk of the water buffalo (think rice paddies, not Great Plains) and, due to the fact that it is one of the most fickle of cheeses, it was rarely found in the U.S., until recently. It simply does not travel well, and once refrigerated, changes texture and taste almost immediately.
That being said, mozzarella that has been refrigerated is still quite good if relatively fresh, and is a completely different experience from eating most of the rather tasteless cheese that has the “mozzarella” label slapped on it. And now, you can try it for yourself. Kroger has recently started carrying authentic Campanian mozzarella in its cheese department, and while most of the current supply was quickly bought up, Kroger management has assured me that they will restock their shelves as soon as they receive a new shipment from the warehouse.
It is not cheap–around $7.95 for a four ounce ball–but if you’ve never had it, it will change the way you think about cheese forever. One word of caution: this is one cheese you don’t want to purchase on sale. The longer it stays on the shelf, the less firm it becomes, and it will develop a rather acrid taste. Buy it as soon as it comes in, take it home, let it drain for a minute or two, and then just cut it into a few slices to serve as a snack or an appetizer while imagining fishermen casting their nets into the sea with lemon groves on the land at their backs and the shadow of Mount Vesuvius looming above.
About Danny Toma:
After spending time exploring Italy, Ireland, Poland, Israel, Iraq, Germany, and, perhaps most exotically, Washington, Danny Toma is now back in Oxford to stay after a 22-year career with the U.S. Department of State. He enjoys dining out, as well as cooking in, and will be contributing to EatingOxford.com on a regular basis.