An Italian masterpiece to melt in your mouth
Column: Flavio Donati and Flavia Spena created ViaVio Cheese at the end of 2016.
After five years, ViaVio is now an artisanal cheese company that has grown into a premium cheese maker supplying New Zealand restaurants and retail outlets with a range of stunning, artisanal and award-winning cheeses.
Getting to this point has been a long and winding road for this couple who were first introduced to New Zealand in 1993 when Flavio came to play rugby here and his team Benetton in Treviso, Italy were being coached by former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith. .
Flavio and Flavia are both originally from Rome and passionate about great food and rugby.
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Flavia had spent 25 years as a senior executive / CFO working for international jewelry company Bulgari, while Flavio was a professional rugby player.
âBecause of rugby we came to New Zealand a lot, we have a lot of friends here and when we came for the World Cup in 2011 we started to think that we would like to create a new life in New Zealand “, did he declare.
During their visit to Nelson in 2014, the former mayor, Aldo Miccio, put them in touch with Julian Raine of Oakland’s Milk who was to supply the A2 milk to a small mozzarella cheese factory, being created by two Italians.
âShortly after, the two Italians contacted us to ask if we would be interested in buying the cheese factory,â said Flavio.
âWe really liked Nelson, but what we missed the most here was the cheese, so we thought it would be nice to make some Italian-style cheeses with wonderful New Zealand milk.
“We thought that, by chance, we had found the opportunity to set up our company in a pleasant place and with a large quantity of milk, we decided to do it”
The couple were excited about the potential of this small operation, but they knew their project had to start with the creation of a new brand and the expansion of the range.
Realizing that New Zealand did not have an artisanal cheese brand in the international market, they wanted to create a brand that reflected their Italian heritage with a New Zealand twist that would eventually work in the export market.
âExport is still a long way off for us, but the brand is important so that we can grow,â said Flavio.
“Thus was born ViaVio, the combination of our two names in a traditional design with the four stars of the New Zealand flag.”
âWith Italy having over 1,000 different types of cheese, we found the variety in New Zealand to be very limited, but the quality of the milk is exceptional,â he said.
So they bravely decided to introduce some of these traditional Italian cheese styles to the New Zealand market.
The opportunity to work with Oaklands Farm to source local quality fully traceable and A2 tested cow’s milk has been pivotal for the new brand, Flavio said.
âWe started from scratch and had to learn everything about making cheese, complying with New Zealand regulations and, most importantly, the tastes and habits of New Zealand consumers.
âIt’s quite different from the way things work in Italy, both in the regulations around the making of cheese and the cultivation of cheese consumption,â he said. âIn Italy, people buy quality fresh cheeses every day. Italians eat many fresh cheeses such as mozzarella, stracchino or ricotta.
âThey buy today and eat today. Everyone here is looking for the shelf life, how long will it last? Cheese is a living product and keeps changing so even if it lasts the flavor won’t be the same, so we say buy it and eat it fresh!
The second big difference between cheese consumption in New Zealand and Italy is that cheese can be the main protein in a meal, according to Flavia, âFresh mozzarella is high in calcium and is very healthy, so it should be. eaten with salads or any other vegetable for protein. instead of fish and meat.
So why are their fresh cheeses so good compared to other brands on the supermarket shelves?
First, they employed a highly qualified Italian master cheese maker who has over 25 years of experience.
“Nicola (man in Italy) has been making cheese since the age of 15, he studied cheese making for five years and ran a family cheese business for many years, so he also understands the business,” said said Flavia.
The other key element that makes ViaVio fresh cheeses so good is that they are made from a natural culture, those made as a basic product are made using citric acid to create the initial curd. .
Flavia also told me that most of the imported mozzarella you can buy in liquid jars are actually frozen, shipped to New Zealand, and thawed here.
âWe are making a natural product, but we find that there is a general lack of education in food knowledge in New Zealand, people are very confident and do not always know exactly where their food comes from and how. it is fabricated.
âIn Europe there were a lot of food crises years ago, so people make sure they know what they are eating,â she said.
âWe believe that supermarkets and other retailers should put clear information on the provenance to better guide consumers in their choices.
“The milk in New Zealand is so good that there should be no need to import frozen cheese.”
ViaVio has won an impressive number of NZ Cheese and NZ Outstanding Food Producer Awards for all the cheeses and yogurts they produce.
âThere were a lot of obstacles, but we look back and after a few years we moved to a new country, started making a product that we had never made before and started a business, so we does a lot of things, “said Flavie.
âWe also want to be part of the new food movement in New Zealand to buy great food made locally from top quality ingredients. “
The vision that Flavia and Flavio had for high quality Italian-style cheeses made with traditional Italian craftsmanship and the best local natural ingredients from New Zealand has come to fruition.
ViaVio now produces and supplies the highest quality products, made only with natural local ingredients and no added preservatives, for all discerning like-minded foodies.
You can read more about the exceptional cheeses they make with locally sourced A2 milk and order online at www.viavio.co.nz.