When I think about Italian people there are two words that spring to mind: family and food. You should never mess with either with an Italian - and I mean that is the nicest possible way. And when food involves some of Italy's most famous products like cheese, well family pride is at stake.
Paesanella Cheese is one of Sydney's longest running cheese empires started fifty years ago by Umberto Somma. Now that Umberto has passed, it is son Max that is tasked with running the successful cheese business. "I just want to bring the best fresh cheese to people," he says.
The factory located in Marrickville produces 15-20 tonnes of cheese a week. Here they make three types of ricotta: fresh milk ricotto, buffalo ricotta and dry ricotta, the latter made from whey mixed with 20% fresh milk. The soft, fresh, milky hot curds are snapped up eagerly by patrons who love the ricotta's creamy texture.
Making mascarpone the traditional way
They also make mozzarella, burrata (cream filled mozzarella with a twisted sumo-like topknot) and fresca (used like halloumi but less salty) along with a raft of other cheeses. Mascarpone, that rich, silky manna from heaven is made in the traditional way, draining the milk and cream through cloth. Their factory shopfront expanded to a store in Haberfield (owned by a friend of the family) that was not only convenient as the factory closed on Saturdays and now they've added another outlet, a cafe on Marrickville Road and a shop upstairs.
The cafe sits on the ground floor of the four storey building that they envisage will become a food emporium with every floor used for dining or retail. A unique item is their buffalo milk cappucinos or lattes. It has taken some time to have the milk ready for retail as buffalo milk needs to be pasteurised at 90°C for safety rather than at 75°C for cow's milk.
The advantage to buffalo milk is that it has A2 the milk protein which is said to be better for those with allergies and it also adds a slight tang to the taste. It also has more calcium, more protein and less cholesterol than cow's milk but is higher in total fats and calories and lasts for longer. I try some buffalo milk by itself and it is beautifully creamy and sweet with a lot of flavour to it. This makes a marked difference in the coffee as the cappuccino is sweeter, richer and full of flavour. I only wish I could buy a bottle to take home!
The Somma family has invested in a buffalo farm in Cairns to produce the milk. Formerly Umberto imported buffalo milk from Italy but found that he wasn't able to achieve a consistent product. They get unpasteurised cow's milk from Victoria and pasteurise it on site which has made an enormous difference to the quality and consistency of product. There are stockists for their cheese products in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth but they have found the Melbourne market a hard one to crack.
Antipasto platter for two $30
There are cheese and meat platters available to order in the cafe. The meat platter features a spicy salami, thinly sliced prosciutto leaves, a wedge of cheese and some excellent olives. The upstairs shop counter holds a tempting range of items including olives wrapped in white anchovies, a pair of forked onto a toothpick for a decidedly savoury snack. The house marinated green olives are particularly good as are the mixed olives that offer up a lucky dip of olive flavours and texture. Shop manager John Piero readily offers customers tastes.
Nutella Cheesecake $6
Dessert presents a conundrum and the cabinet is full of pastries from different suppliers. One of the biggest suppliers is Pasticceria Papa in Haberfield who use Paesanella's ricotta for their legendary ricotta cake. There are individual portions of this ricotta cake, a regular and another one with a dollop of Nutella in the centre.
However my favourite dessert is the freshly filled cannoli. The shells are from Pasticceria Papa but they fill the cannoli with their own ricotta filling on site so that the outer is crispy and crunchy but the inside, soft and smooth.
The third floor holds their retail store and cafe and it is a cornucopia of choice for food shoppers. Stocking around 3,000 items the range is astounding and well curated with pretty much every item for Italophiles. There are also some chairs and table here and you can order deli items, pizza and salads to have here. We tried the lasagna here that comes in an enormous size and is served warm with plenty of filling and comforts in a way that only a hulking slice of lasagna can.
Lasagna with salad $10
The lure for many is of course the cheese and of course there is the Paesanella brand on sale here but customers can also buy a fantastic range of cheese, curated by cheese whisperer Paul Carter who can be found offering customers samples of cheese on delicious rosemary salted crackers. Formerly at Simon Johnson, he clearly loves the stuff and his enthusiasm for the product is infectious. There's not a single person that walks away without a wedge of prized cheese.
I walk around wide mouthed at the selection. You need time to soak it all in as the variety of produce is astounding, not just from Italy but from around the world. There is even a 100 year old bottle of balsamic vinegar on sale for $420 - it is said to be worth every cent. Thank goodness I didn't knock it over! I walk out with a wedge of that day's bargain, a d'Affanois for $20 a kilo as well as a basket full of Italian treasures.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried buffalo milk? What sort of milk do you drink and is it full fat, low fat or non fat?
This meal was independently paid for
150 Marrickville Road, Marrickville, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9519 6181
Open 6 days a week Mon - Sat: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm