By Jeanne Carpenter
A creamy, fresh Italian cheese born in the Puglia region of southern Italy 30 years ago is today influencing a culinary revolution, thanks to Mimmo Bruno, cheesemaker at BelGioioso Cheese in Denmark, Wis. Determined to resurrect a favorite delicacy of his youth, Bruno, born in Italy, was one of the first artisans in the United States to recreate Burrata, a cream-filled Fresh Mozzarella. Today, he handcrafts the cheese as part of a full line of classic Italian cheeses produced at BelGioioso.
Derived from the Italian word for butter, Burrata is known for its creamy, soft center and rich flavor. A favorite of chefs and cheese connoisseurs, the variety is finding a growing audience in the United States. "Burrata is a very delicate cheese that must be made by hand - it's a labor of love," Bruno says. "Because it's filled with fresh cream, it must be very carefully handled. It's truly an artisan cheese."
Growing up in the Puglia region of Italy, Bruno remembers when the first local cheesemaker introduced Burrata in the 1970s. "It quickly became a regional favorite - everybody was soon trying to make it. But when I left Italy in 1986, Burrata was still very much a regional cheese - if you went 100 kilometers out of Puglia, no one knew what it was."
Bruno got his start at a local cheese factory in Italy when he was 11 years old, scrubbing vats and washing floors. Whenever he got the chance, he hovered around the veteran cheesemakers, watching and listening, and soon learned the trade. At 12 years old, he made his first vat of fresh mozzarella.
"It was good - I didn't get fired," Bruno says with a smile. Soon he was making 2,000 lire a week, equivalent to $1. The neighborhood cheese plant eventually became his after-school destination, full-time summer job and "my home away from home."
After a career in the Italian army, Bruno set out for the United States and started making cheese in California, eventually owning two different cheese factories on the West Coast. In 2006, after he sold his second plant, Bruno began working for BelGioioso Cheese Inc., and has since stamped his trademark "Delizie Di Mimmo translated to Mimmo's Delights" on the Burrata cheese he now handcrafts in Wisconsin.
Burrata is just one of the dozens of original, specialty cheeses made at five distinctively specialized cheese plants owned by BelGioioso. Since opening his first tiny cheese plant in 1979, company owner Errico Auricchio has expanded into one of Wisconsin's largest specialty cheese companies.
Bruno works alongside two other Old World cheesemakers who have dedicated their lives to crafting quality artisan cheeses for BelGioioso. Mauro Rozzi and Gianni Toffolon, both of whom followed Auricchio to Wisconsin from Italy, are continually creating and tweaking their original recipes while always respecting the tradition of Italian cheeses.
Pairing Wisconsin Cheese & Italian Wine
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Glorioso's, Milwaukee, Wis. >> Learn more...