Founders of ViaVio Cheese, Flavia Spena and Flavio Donati, are both from Rome and share a passion for cheese … and rugby! It was the latter that brought them to New Zealand when Flavio, a professional rugby player, came to play here. They both fell in love with the country and decided to make the move to start a new life.
Settling in beautiful Nelson, they embarked on another journey of discovery through their shared passion – cheese. They quickly found the cheeses of Italy at the time weren’t as readily available as they’d hoped and, by coincidence, they came across a small Italian cheese-making business in Nelson that was for sale. They jumped at the opportunity. Drawing on the expertise of an Italian cheese master with more than 20 years’ experience, their adventure began.
The couple source their milk directly from Oaklands farm in Nelson which provides a local fully-traceable supply from A2-tested cows. They now produce a range of delicious fresh and aged Italian cheeses – fresh ricotta, mozzarella and stracchino, alongside fontal and gorgonzola.
We caught up with Flavia to ask a few questions about her love of cheese:
What do you think the best thing is about Italian-style cheese? In Italy, we eat cheese as meals instead of fish or meat. Especially fresh cheese. In Italy it is on tables almost every day. Fresh cheese gives a very good balance in the Mediterranean diet with the right contribution of proteins and calcium. With more than 1000 different types of cheeses, we give a great value to artisanal work which uses natural ingredients with no preservatives.
What are your favourite Italian-style cheeses and why? Cheeses are so different that I have to give you at least two favourites: one fresh and one aged. My favourite fresh one is mozzarella. I like it with any type of vegetable. While in summer you can make a fresh caprese salad, in winter I like it with warm steamed broccoli, a very good extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. I even put it on spaghetti with tomato sauce! My favourite aged one is fontal. A washed-rind cheese delicious on cheese boards, with bread, honey. It’s also got a very good melting quality. The recipe comes from the Italian mountains where they use it for cheese fondue or to melt on poached eggs or mushrooms.
What would you like our customers to know about your cheeses? We match traditional Italian recipes and the 20-year experience of our Italian cheese master with the best natural milk from A2-tested cows. The result is a great assortment of cheese and yoghurt. As very natural products, our cheeses may vary a little following the lactation phases of the cows, as well as the flavours of the seasonal grass. This is the beauty of a natural product which is not industrially or chemically stabilised.
What serving ideas do you have for stracchino? Stracchino is a great product that’s very popular in Italy but almost unknown outside the country. It is spreadable, good on bread or crackers, a perfect match with smoked salmon or sundried tomatoes. It is very versatile, it can be melted on pizza – delicious with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and rocket salad. It’s also very good in soups – pumpkin is one of my favourite combinations. Another great product is scamorza. It is a slightly aged mozzarella with very good melting quality. It is delicious like this in sandwiches or salads. It’s also very good melted on bruschetta or with mushrooms, Parma ham or anchovies. Crostino is a typical dish from Rome where you put into a single-portion ceramic pot, toasted bread, scamorza, Parma ham or mushrooms or anchovies. Put the pot in the oven and bring it hot to the table. Simply delicious.