Is Burrata the New Mozzarella?
Is Burrata, first cousin to Mozzarella, the new “it” cheese on Italian restaurant menus? Penso di si.
I remember the exact trip to Rome in the late 80s when I discovered Mozzarella, specifically Fior di Latte, the little round balls immersed in water. I can actually pinpoint my lifelong obsession with Mozzarella to the moment when my father’s mother, my Nonna Franca, placed it on the table. Poor Nonna must’ve regretted the choice because everyday afterwards it was the same request, “Nonna, per favore, mozzarella….” I’d plead in my broken Italian and she, in her broken English, would throw her hands in the air, sigh, and reply, “Va bene. Andiamo!” And off we’d traipse through the streets of Rome to the market.
Flash forward 10 years later, back in the U.S. Suddenly, or so it seemed, I’m seeing this Italian Mozzarella on restaurant menus. Mind you, you still couldn’t find it in the stores. But, at upper-end restaurants in Manhattan this was becoming the “it” appetizer. I was thrilled. It was good. Not as good as in Italy — and I would later learn that this was because in the U.S. they couldn’t use Buffalo milk (too expensive and still is). Still, I was happy. I ordered it everywhere I could.
Then, it began to appear in gourmet markets like Balducci’s. It was very expensive, however, I often splurged. Today, Fior di Latte, fresh mozzarella, in all shapes and forms, is everywhere. The cheese is so common now that people probably don’t even realize that less than 15 years ago, this was hard-to-find and prohibitively expensive.
So now, though, there’s this new cheese trending, Burrata (pronounced Boo-rah-ta), and its quickly becoming just as popular as Mozzarella. In fact, it’s really, in its essence, Mozzarella with a lovely twist. I was curious to know more and to see if others noticed the rising popularity of Burrata, so I visited — who else?! — but South Florida’s very own Mozzarella King, Vito Volpe, who, through his company Mozzarita in Pompano Beach, makes the very Burrata I often buy at Whole Foods.
Vito Volpe is a very authentic Italian cheese maker and he has brought the traditional way of making Burrata, which originates in Puglia, the region he is also from, to South Florida. When I visited him — at the moment when the Burrata was being made — I actually felt like I was in Italy and I love that feeling. So much of this blog is about finding authentic Italian culture here in the U.S. There were no mass conveyer belts, or mass production mindset. In Volpe’s shop, all I found were family, helping hands, and a lot of hard work.
I asked Volpe, “Do you think Burrata is the new Mozzarella? Do you get as many orders for it?”
He nodded his head in agreement and replied, “Yes, the same amount. I make so much Burrata now. Whole Foods buys so much because people like it so much. I use only fresh ingredients”
Mozzarita supplies Mozzarella and Burrata to many of South Florida’s most prestigious restaurants and hotels, including the Fountainbleau, Eden Roc, Vilaggio and Vic & Angelo’s. He’s witnessed the rise in popularity of Burrata, noting that it’s mostly been in the past year that the requests for this cheese have increased so much.
What exactly is Burrata? Well, Burrata is, essentially, Mozzarella with a soft core of shredded, buttery Mozarella shreds, called “Stracciatella” and rich cream. So, just to be clear — encased in a purse-like sac of Mozzarella, is this pleasant, buttery, heavenly, gooey, warm center that gushes out when you slice into it. Volpe also told me that there are variations that are now becoming popular, such as having the center also contain Prosciutto or Truffle Oil. Another version is filled with Ricotta.
Watching Volpe and his small team assemble the Burrata was fascinating. It begins with separating the curds and whey produced from whole milk. The curds are immersed in very hot, salted water. Then they are carefully stretched and folded until they form one big, stretchy glob of warm cheese.
From this vat, Volpe pulls and breaks off a long strip of the cheese, which he molds with his hands into a circular, flat plate-sized sheet of the Mozzarella. Volpe holds out this sheet and his father-in-law, Mimino Martino, who stands across from him, places a scoop of the mixture of cream and Stracciatella inside of it.
After this Volpe closes the pliable Mozzarella “purse” around the soft scoop and twists the top to seal it, removing the excess and placing it back in the warm vat.
He then places the newly-formed Burrata into a long, water-filled container where it awaits being packaged in the plastic Mozzarita containers seen in the stores.
Mozzarita is a genuine Italian business in another respect, apart from the handmade process. In addition to his father-in-law, Vito’s wife, Lucrezia, also works alongside him in the shop.
I asked Volpe about what to eat alongside Burrata. He replied, “I place it on a bed of arugula, or alongside some fresh grilled vegetables.”
“What about wine?” I inquired. He responded, “Pinot Grigio.” Then he explained that this milder wine is the perfect complement to Burrata because it is also a mild-flavored cheese.
Sounded like a lovely combination. I got my Burrata from Volpe and headed off in search of a good bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio and a bunch of fresh Arugula, grateful as always to have Italian blood running through my veins and happy to have discovered the rise in popularity of this sumptuous Italian cheese from Puglia!
Mozzarita is located at 5392 NE 13th Way, Pompano Beach FL 33064 | 954-426-5115 | email@example.com. You can also visit them online at http://www.mozzarita.com/ You can request to join their Facebook group too! http://www.facebook.com/groups/106363987174/