Total Food Service sat down with Lori Church, Director of Sales & Marketing, Lioni Latticini Inc. in Union, NJ to talk about foodservice cheese trends and menu solutions.
Can you share a brief history of Lioni with our readers?
The Salzarulo family began its tradition in the Latticini business in the town of Lioni, Italy many decades ago. In 1980, the family brought its fine art of cheese making to Brooklyn, New York where it created a name for itself making fresh, whole milk mozzarella cheese. Within the past three decades, the Salzarulos have transformed their small neighborhood, family business into a nationally renowned manufacturer and distributor of fresh mozzarella in the United States.
Today, Lioni is still a family owned and operated business that holds onto old Italian values and traditions. They manufacture over 15 million pounds of mozzarella per year in a 100,000 square foot facility in Union, N.J. Their distribution reaches over 35 cities across the United States. The company also has a 2,000 square foot wholesale warehouse in Brooklyn.
Not easy to take hand made recipes from Italy and interpret them for a US audience and make them in bulk. How were you able to accomplish that?
Through comprehensive research and development and generations of cheesemaking expertise, Lioni crafts new items beginning with small batches, perfecting the product and improving the production process over time. They develop a product progressively to insure product quality and consistency as they transition from small batches to larger volumes.
A strict attention to detail goes into every step of production – from the selection of the freshest milk, to the meticulous processing of the valuable curd, the perfect timing of the creation of the cheese, to the final inspection and in-house processing and
Talk about what has gone into the design of your facility in Jersey.
Lioni utilizes innovative dairy technology along with state of the art computer-monitored and automated customized equipment in their HACCP compliant manufacturing facility. Their facility was much inspired by innovative dairy facilities from their family’s native region in Italy.
Have you always produced product for foodservice?
Yes, Lioni has always offered their traditional fresh mozzarella products in foodservice packaging.
How have the tastes of the Lioni foodservice customer evolved?
As chefs and their patrons have become more educated in the true attributes of fresh mozzarella, the demand for quality, taste, texture and consistency has become fundamental to satisfy a more sophisticated palate.
Look every proud chef would like to make his/her own mozzarella. What’s the volume level at which it simply makes no sense?
Bufala mozzarella cannot be made easily, due to its extremely delicate nature and the lack of accessibility to Buffalo milk, (especially on the East Coast). Chefs often make cow’s milk mozzarella from curd, in-house, though in small quantities, usually anywhere from 5-10 lbs. average. Highly skilled professionals can often produce 20-25 lbs. before it just becomes too labor intensive to meet their needs.
Talk about some of the trends that you see in terms of how mozzarella is being utilized on menus?
Currently the top menu trends include Bufala mozzarella and Burrata both being used in numerous appetizers such as traditional Caprese salads, Entrees and Pizzas. Chefs have now incorporated Burrata as a key ingredient in Pasta dishes as well as Seafood dishes.
Where did the idea come from for the new Bufala Fresca?
The owners of Lioni had always wanted to create an authentic Bufala mozzarella here in the U.S., but were presented with various challenges. For years, as they imported this Italian delicacy they struggled with providing a consistent fresh imported perishable product. They had made several attempts to import the curd from Italy, but it proved to be ineffective. Eventually, through collaboration with Caseificio Mandara, the leading innovators and purveyors of exceptional buffalo milk sourced from the DOP area of Campania, Italy, Lioni was able to recreate the inspirational essence of Italy’s original Bufala Mozzarella here in the U.S. Lioni respectfully presents an uncompromised, exquisite and superbly fresh 100% buffalo milk mozzarella.
What serving suggestions do you have for Bufala Fresca?
Lioni suggests serving this celebrated Italian specialty at room temperature to experience the true authentic flavor and aroma that clearly distinguishes it as a traditional fresh Mozzarella di Bufala. Bufala Fresca can be delightfully enjoyed with a hint of olive oil, as a simple insalata Caprese or as the essential ingredient for Pizza.
Do you deliver product directly throughout Metro NYC or through distributors?
Lioni delivers product directly though they also partner with several distributors to fulfill product demand throughout Metro NYC.
What’s the next step for a chef or foodservice operator that wants more info on the new product or the Lioni line?
Information is available on Lioni’s website, information can also be requested via email at email@example.com or by calling our Union location at 908-686-6061. Food service operators can also contact their current distributors to request Lioni products.