After having the chance to be introduced to Latteria Perenzin at Summer Fancy Food Show, I wanted to know more about their history, roots, and creations. I went to the source and interviewed Carlo Piccoli, the cheese maker and co- owner with Emanuela Perenzin of Perenzin (pictured below).
Q: Manuela and Carlo, Perenzin first award was a gold medal at the Brussels “Salon des Arts Ménagers” in 1933. In what year exactly was 'Latteria Perenzin' founded?
We have produced cheese for 4 generations. The founder of the first dairy was Domenico Perenzin in 1900 when the dairy was in Tarzo, a town nearby our current location in San Pietro di Feletto, which was rebuilt in 1958 and upgraded in 1997.
Q: Besides the classic affinage line, you started offering Organic Goat and Organic Cow cheeses some 10 years ago, were they certified from the start?
We started to produce cheeses with organic milk more than 20 years ago, when the S. Michele Cooperative placed in Conegliano, a town near ours, began to sell us their milk. With this small company was born the most important Italian distributor for organic food, ECOR, which is now leader in Italy. The production was initially traded by the cooperative, but then meeting with producer of goat milk in 1999 brought a deep change to our organic brand. The organic market was growing and we recommended the farm to certify the company. So we started the production of the first organic goat milk cheeses in 1999. In the following years many farms received the organic certification and today they number 10.
Q: Your current cheesemaker Carlo Piccoli or should I call him creator of cheese also holds a 'master cheese taster' title, why was it important for him to add this to his toolkit?
It mattered to us because the cheese has not only to be created but also valued and presented in all its parts. From the technical point of view, with all its production processes, to the organoleptic one, involving the sight, the touch, the smell and the taste sense.
Q: How long has Carlo been in charge of the cheesemaking? What changes did he bring both in style and new offerings?
I have a 25 years experience in producing cheeses. The real change was that of linking traditional and artisanal production to innovation. The hygienic control in all production processes guarantees the certainty of a healthy product. Modern packaging gives duration to it, without adding preservatives. Not to forget is the collaboration we maintain with the farmers during the production phase and with the distributors during the selling phase. Public relations are now managed by my wife, Emanuela Perenzin, the great niece of Domenico Perenzin, the founder. Besides high quality and respect of tradition, we answered the needs of organic costumers and gourmets.
Q: You are located in San Pietro di Feletto, Province of Treviso (Veneto Region), are most of the ingredients used in your cheese sourced locally?
Yes, the ingredients we use are local and Italian. The organic goat milk we use comes form the Piave valley (Belluno Dolomites National Park) where we collaborate with 10 farmers, while the organic cow milk comes from S. Michele cooperative. For the conventional cheeses, milk comes from Treviso and Belluno province.
Q: How important is a network of reliable suppliers in keeping a constant quality level?
It is very important. The quality of the cheeses depends on the quality of the ingredients .The organic goat milk for example comes from certified farms, where goats pasture in open air. It gives special qualities to the milk and therefore to the cheese, which is characterized by a faint and delicate scent of goat milk. Not to forget is continued collaboration with the farmers, with whom we have worked for many years.
Q: Could you describe your cheesemaking facilities in a few lines, especially the elements that help bring out the distinct characters of Latteria Perenzin cheeses?
Artisanal approach is what distinguishes our cheeses: touching the curd by hand makes me feel close to the milk, its components, the proteins, the cream, calcium and milk bacterium. My hand must see beyond the boiler, my Heart and Soul have to manage as I prefer the production development. The main work is done by milk ferments and I am their trainer! I know how many they are, of which type they are, if they feel good or not, how hungry they are, because the bacterium eats the lactose, which is the sugar contained in the milk, and converts it in lactic acid that is simply the cheese natural preservative. My 25 years of experience and the hundreds of production cycles I have gone through is what helps me give a soul to our cheeses. It is not only a matter of how much curd or temperature is used or which cutting has to be performed. These are only technical things. An essential ingredient to make a good cheese is to do it with Love!
Q: If you were to outline the distinct character of Latteria Perenzin creations in 5 points what would they be?
Tradition, innovation, passion, quality and care.
Q: Are cheeses from your area in Veneto very different from other regions in Italy, in what way?
Surely. Every region differs for its gastronomy. Veneto region has developed a dairy tradition especially in cow milk that was used only to produce cheeses with hard and semi-hard consistency. In the last 20 years there has been a big evolution concerning the used milk types. Apart from cow milk they started to work with goat milk, for which we are a leading dairy, but also sheep and buffalo milk.
Q: Amongst the Organic Goat cheese, I saw the Robiola Arcobaleno, what's special about it?
It is particular because it is made in small molds, without milling the curd, so it ends up being soft, with a delicate and sour taste with faint scent of goat milk. If it is flavored with spices on the surface, like chilli pepper, onion and oregano we call it robiola arcobaleno or rainbow robiola.
Q: Why is the Magrello goat cheese served by the slice?
Magrello is a cheese that can be cut in slices because it can be dressed with a dash of extra virgin olive oil. It can be cut in cubes too, in order to be served with mixed salads or good on its own in a hot pan with a fast cooking.
Q: I noticed that a number of your cheeses were only available between February and November, why?
Some cheeses are seasonal. We want to give customers a healthy, genuine and savory product. The seasonality of our goat milk Traminer drunken cheese is an example because Traminer grape must is available only in September after the grape picking and tamping.
Q: In the Traditional and Affine, what distinguishes the San Pietro in Cera d'Api?
San Pietro in beeswax is a very particular and appreciated cheese, especially by American costumers. It is aged for a year, with a compact paste and treated on surface with natural beeswax. This is a very old preservation method that gives the cheese a pleasing and persistent flavor of beeswax and honey. The beeswax on the surface releases humidity to the inside of the paste, giving the cheese an unusual and velvety consistency for an aged cheese. The final taste is elegant and round.
Q: Are most of the Traditional cheeses inspired by ancient, time tasted recipes?
Yes, as cheese maker I interpret the past and try to meet cust0mers taste standards supplying them a high quality product. Reading ancient medieval books and dairy manuals of the 800’s helps me a lot!
Q: Could you suggest wine pairing options for some of your cheeses?
Each cheese can be combined with a different wine depending on its characteristics. Our medieval cheese is very good as accompaniment to walnut bread or with a little chestnut honey and a glass of raisin wine. Our Affine goat cheeses are good with red wine, while our fresh cheeses work well with Prosecco and Verdiso wine.Q: Do you also have a retail store in San Pietro?
Yes, we have a shop near production site, where we sell our cheeses and other selected local and national high quality products.
Q: Can people visit your facilities?
Yes, actually we welcome school groups and foreign tourists interested in our province and curious to know how Artisanal cheese is made. Next year my wife and I will inaugurate a new wing of our dairy, where the guests will have the possibility to buy our cheeses and see our production thanks to a view of our workshop and warehouse. There will be a cheese bar where they can taste our cheeses but also Charcuterie and wines. It will be a place to visit during the evening to taste and buy good food! Finally we will collaborate with chefs to serve original recipes.
Q: Best bread to serve with your cheeses?
A cheese can find its expression simply with a slice of bread or with fruit or vegetable, spicy-sweet sauces, or with sweets, not forgetting to respect the personality of the cheese and never masking it.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in San Pietro?
The restaurant we appreciate at most is Gigetto’s Restaurant, managed by Gigetto and his son Marco. It was founded in the 900s in Miane, not so far from San Pietro di Feletto, in one of the most evocative places of Treviso Marc. We like it because of its local delicatessen courses, for the cuisine techniques or alternative cooking, for its combination of flavors linked to the wellness philosophy. We have collaborated with these friends for many years and participated in various local events.
Q: A place, a sight, one must see in San Pietro?
San Pietro di Feletto is a small town near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, a famous area for Prosecco production. Between gentle hills and green woods, there are well-known wine farms that celebrate their red and white wines during Primavera del Prosecco Festival, a local summer event in which we take part every year with our cheeses.
Q: Outside Italy where is Latteria Perenzin most popular?
Outside Italy, Perenzin cheeses are well-known in Europe and in the United States. The change happened in 2005 when for the first time we showcased our products at Anuga fair. This fair created a positive reaction from German (which typically consumes organic food more frequently and with more conviction than Italians), and Dutch, Swedish, Canadian and United States markets.
Q: Name some of your favorite cheesemakers in Italy?
My favorite cheese maker is Enrico Parente, owner of Campania Felix, specialized in buffalo mozzarella.Q: Did you get inspired by some of them?
Many cheese makers tend not to speak about their secrets, others like to talk about them. I think I can learn from everybody!
Q: Have you trained budding cheesemakers from abroad?
Yes, in our dairy we welcome students who aspire to become food technicians and specialists.
Q: What do you say to someone who declares they don't eat cheese because it's fattening?
This is absolutely wrong! Carbohydrates and sugars hiding in food are fattening! Goat cheese is a good way to refute that misconception because it is poor in fats, very digestible and recommended on diets.
Q: If your cheese was music what would it be?
Every cheese is different and expresses a different music! A raw milk cheese, as our Feletto cheese, is analog to rock’n roll music because of its characteristics, keeping its originality, or natural milk ferments, that give an intense, incomparable and lively flavor and aroma. .. …Our goat cheeses then could be a classical music, as they are delicate and balanced….
Thanks to Carlo Piccoli and Emanuela Perenzin of Latteria Perenzin for sharing their craft and passion for a cheese well done. Thanks also to Arianna Zanchetta for translating my questions to them.
I learned a lot from them just while editing this interview.
I hope you do as well by reading it.
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