Cheese Please

September 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

On the cusp of the Labor Day Weekend, summertime seems to be draining away but not before delivering one last bonanza of delicious tomatoes. With a bounty of fresh and juicy prizes on hand, there are few better summer repasts than tomatoes with a bit of basil, drops of vinegar and oil, and mozzarella. And now to find some fresh mozzarella….

Los Angeles is not exactly overflowing with places to pick up artisanal Italian ingredients, and perhaps it makes perfect sense that best mozzarella in town is to be had on a a rugged block of industrial concerns in South El Monte, next-door to a custom metal fabrication shop.

Gioia Cheese specializes in just mozzarella, relying on the talents of third-generation cheese maker Vito Girardi to make more than 1500 pounds of cheese every day. However, in addition to various shapes of fresh mozzarella, the company also produces fresh bocconcini, ricotta, affumicata (a drier smoked version of mozzarella that makes for fantastic grilled cheeses), mascaparone, and burrata (all part of the mozzarella family, according to the receptionist at company headquarters). A good deal of the cheese is earmarked for the tables of upscale restaurants in town—Nancy Silverton of Mozza fame is apparently a fan—but if you make your way to South El Monte during normal business hours, you can pick up a pound of two of fresh cheese for your own caprese constructions. Burrata, my favorite, is a savory version of a bon bon.  The taut skin of mozzarella is filled with just-coagulated cream, the missing link between mozzarella and ricotta. According to Russ Parsons, owner Girardi is from Apulia, where burrata was first  invented, and was instrumental in popularizing the regional specialty in this country.  (In that same article, Parsons has a nice bon mot that ended up on Gioia’s website: “Burrata is to mozzarella as foie gras is to chicken liver.”) You can find Gioia cheeses at Whole Foods and other spots, but stop by the factory for a few pounds of the freshest specimens to complement your summer best.

Gioia Cheese                                                                                                                                                                                     
1605 Potrero Avenue
El Monte, CA 91733
Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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