Best bites: Mozzarita

Nodini and Sun dried tomato from Mozarrita. Photo: Linda Baldholm.

Vito Volpe, who grew up on a farm near Bari, a city in Puglia, the southern “boot” region of Italy, is bringing fresh mozzarella to South Florida one cheese ball at a time under the Mozzarita label. The creamy dairy delight is handmade by master cheesemaker Mimmo Marchittla, a friend of Volpe’s from Bari. When Volpe moved to Boca Raton four years ago from Long Island, he decided to add fresh mozzarella to the line of Italian food products he sells through Norba, his import-export company in Pompano Beach. He built a small cheese plant adjacent to his office-showroom and brought on board Marchittla, who is ably assisted by Maribel Rodriguez.

Mozzarita’s fiore di latte (cow’s milk mozzarella), ricotta and burrata start with pasteurized milk from Dixie Fresh Dairy near Tampa. The large mass of curd is then cut into small pieces once the milk is curdled using a citric acid and salt solution. To make the cheese, curds are added to hot whey (the liquids from the drained curds) and stirred until the curds melt and start to form a smooth, shiny mass. Marchittla stretches the mass like taffy, then grabs globs of hot curds and kneads them like bread, patting them into smooth, elastic balls. Rodriguez helps to break the large balls into little knots called nodino that are dropped into a cold brine bath and packed into plastic containers. (They’re best consumed the same day but will keep about three days.)

Ricotta is made by adding cold milk to hot whey (the byproduct of mozzarella). Burrata is basically mozzarella stuffed in mozzarella. The outer skin is patted into a flat disc that is stretched and wrapped around unfinished curd and heavy cream, creating a soft core. Burrata is great cut in quarters and dressed with good olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Fresh mozzarella can be eaten as is or added to salads, pastas and other dishes. If you’ve only had supermarket mozzarella, these fresh, handmade cheeses will be a revelation.

Mozzarita, 5392 NE 13th Way, Pompano Beach; 954-426-5115, 561-699-5506;; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon-Fri; cheeses are $7 to $11 a pound. A one-pound container of knots is $10.99.

FYI: Mozzarita cheeses are available at Whole Foods and Gardners Markets. They also are sold weekends at the Upper East Side and Las Olas farmers’ markets and during the week at the Pompano Beach plant.

Published: 9/08

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