The grand opening of the company's small cheese factory in Hawthorne had a quite a turnout —possibly due to Hawthorne’s close-knit Italian community (or perhaps it was the free catering by chef Antonio Pisanello and Il Forniao).
Franco Russo, a third-generation artisan cheese maker, is a native of Bagnoli Irpino, a village in Italy's Campania region so renowned for its mozzarella that there are 10 family-owned formaggio "factories" – impressive considering the town’s population of just 3,000. He and Angelo Tartaglia, the company's chief executive, grew up together and decided to take their knowledge to the U.S.
“At first, I thought the reason why America didn’t have good mozzarella was because of the milk. Then we figured out it was the timing, the process and the tradition,“ Tartaglia says.
The two are hoping that their small-production cheeses — produced using Italian-made machinery and their almost-instinctual knowledge of cheese — will tap into Angelenos’ increasing demand for fresh mozzarella. Mozza's Nancy Silverton and Santa Monica cheese shop owner Andrew Steiner have sparked local interest on a small scale, but this team is aiming for distribution in Whole Foods, Bristol Farms and Costco.
Upon cutting the red ribbon Thursday that officially opened the Angelo & Franco Factory, one of Hawthorne’s representatives encouraged attendees to join the city’s third annual Italian Festival/Bocce Tournament on June 13 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Memorial Park (3901 W. El Segundo Blvd.; free). Best believe that if there’s fresh cheese, we’ll be there.
-- Krista Simmons
Photo credit: Angelo & Franco