My friend Domenico is a great educator on Italian cheese. One recent night, he introduced me to some fabulous bufala mozzarella while teaching a class at Serafina restaurant, specifically exploring this wonderful Italian cheese.
Made in Italy's Campania region, close to Naples, Salerno and Caserta, mozzarella di bufala comes designated with an official Italian stamp that certifies is was produced in this area. Like other famed Italian cheeses (like parmigiano, asiago, and gorgonzola), the Campana trademark has a protection status. As sold and eaten in this country, the so called "mozzarella" is more often "fiore di latte," a cows' milk cheese. Though similar in shape to bufala mozzarella, it is not genuine "mozzarella, though it is used for pizza and, unfortunately, mistakenly substituted for the infamous Caprese salad of tomato, basil and… mozzarella! But there's distinct taste and textural differences between these two cheeses.
Using samples from Ace Endico, an importer planning to package a line of bufala mozzarella called "Sole," Domenico started the evening by warning us with this rule: "Never serve cold bufala mozzarella." He then placed it in a pot of heated water, allowing it to sit there for three minutes. To my palate, the warmed cheese tasted as if it were just made, the whey wonderfully creamy and delicate. I wondered why so many restaurants often serve mozzarella di bufala straight from the cold of refrigeration. Domenico pointed out that warming smoked bufala mozzarella will enhances the smoking process. The lesson of the evening about mozzarella, "Chill out! Bring on the warmth!" Give it a little heat, and this cheese will reward you with delight.