Family-owned Di Palo Fine Foods in New York City has been a destination for artisan Italian foods since 1925. Asking Proprietor Lou Di Palo to select his favorite Italian cheese is akin to choosing among his children. Di Palo was one of the first cheesemongers to bring Piave DOP to the United States, and this cheese remains special to him.
Piave DOP ( Denominazione di Origine Protetta ) is a hard cow’s milk cheese made exclusively in Belluno in the northern Veneto near the Dolomites. Piave cheese is sourced from local free-grazing “Bruno Alpina” cows. The cheese has a distinct buttery texture with sweet and savory flavors of dried tropical fruit, toasted nuts, and caramel.
“The milk from these cows is exceptional. The balance of fat and protein is so uniform it makes for an extremely palatable cheese. When I let people taste Piave cheese, I see the satisfaction in their faces,” Di Palo said.
Making Piave DOP cheeses is a time-honored process. The cheese curds are hard-cooked and pressed into a mold, then placed inside a branding ring (“fascera”). The word PIAVE is impressed on the side of each cheese wheel to identify its authenticity. After soaking in a brine bath, the cheeses are aged from two to 12 months in temperature-controlled rooms to achieve their full flavors.
This process ensures consistency and quality. “Piave changed my impression of how cheese should be made. In all the years I have worked behind the counter selling cheeses, I have never seen a more consistent and uniform cheese, so perfect with every wheel I cut,” Di Palo said.
Piave’s flavor complements without overpowering dishes. Here are three styles:
Piave DOP Mezzano (aged 2 to 6 months) is a semi-hard, buttery smooth cheese with a milder and sweeter flavor. It’s good for melting.
Piave DOP Vecchio (aged at least six months) is hard and crumbly with a slightly savory and nuttier flavor with aromas of brown butter and toast. Grate or shave over pasta, salads, and vegetables.
Piave DOP Oro del Tempo (aged at least 12 months) is hard and crumbly with complex flavors of roasted nuts and brown butter laced with dried mango. Good for grating.
Di Palo’s Fine Foods is located at 151 Mott Street, NYC 212-226-1033
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