cheese 2

And by “cheese,” we mean the very best — the Italian varieties.  Provolone, Grana Padano, Asiago, Caciotte, and a whole variety of delicious others we were fortunate to experience. How did that happen? Here’s the story of one more trip highlight from our recent Italy travels (click for previous posts).

Our dear friend, client and well-known restauranteur Giacomino Drago was our go-to for how to make this cheese tour happen. He connected us with the amazing folks at Monti Trentini.

From our hotel in Venice, the drive was under two hours. When one considers this included a water taxi and endless tolls, we made it to the destination fairly fast. Italy is not shy about collecting money for use of their roadways, but at least they are extremely well maintained. Thus, driving is easy (outside of major cities, that is).

The factory location in the Dolomite mountains (although barely above sea level) is breathtaking.  It is in the northeast region of Italy. Most impressive is the business began in 1925 and continues today with current family members actively working. Our tour was conducted by cousins Mavi and Pietro, both of whom answered every question flawlessly. We saw all aspects of the operations. Mavi’s father (below working with provolone) and Pietro’s father arrive each morning at 3am. Obviously they love what they do.

Below, provolone in various stages of aging.

There are currently about 100-110 employees. Many had already finished their shifts by the time we toured. The family did everything possible during the height of Covid to maintain the staff; not an easy feat. Some 50 cheeses are made at the factory (see the full list here), and each requires a different process.

Many know Parmigiana Reggiano as “the king of cheese.” Why is it not produced here? First, it comes from a different region in Italy and is made from a different type of milk. The aging process is longer; thus it is generally more expensive. Grana Padano, on the other hand, has a shorter aging process and Monti Trentini produces vast quantities all year. For comparison of the two, I use a good olive oil for cooking but a great olive oil for finishing a dish. The same could be said for the two cheeses.

Below, the enormous copper vats are only used in the production of Grana Padano.

Above, the mold used to imprint critical information on each wheel. Below, the wheels “rest” in huge tubs of salt water as part of the process. 

We were delighted to taste many of their products as seen below. Their retail shop on the premises offers their cheeses along with spreads, crackers, sweets, wine and more. My favorite was the Asiago! What a delicious treat.

So, after seeing row after row in room after room of finished product, just one thought remained. Who else is craving pizza?

Below, NOT in Italy but at a restaurant in Southern California!  Wonderful reminder.