Almost 20 years ago, a young man from Sicily came to Melbourne for a fresh start in life. Finding work in a cheese factory, he discovered his true calling as a cheesemaker.

He went on to found a company that specialises in quality Sicilian-style cheese, writes Richard Cornish.

What is it?
That’s Amore Cheese is a small, independent Melbourne cheesemaking factory producing an extensive range of fresh ricotta, stretched-curd cow’s milk cheese, white mould, washed rind, and buffalo milk cheeses. The company is best known for its fresh-tasting, supple and clean-finishing mozzarella and bright, rich and delicious ricotta. That’s Amore Cheese also produces very high-quality burrata, stracciatella and salty cacio, and has since early on in its foundation, nurturing Victoria’s love of these Sicilian-style cheeses.

Who’s producing it?
Giorgio Linguanti arrived in Australia as a 31-year-old man in 2004 with just a few words of English. With only an uncle as an anchor, he searched for work and found a job in an Italian-owned cheese factory in the suburbs. “I was forever curious, asking why the milk smelled different some days,” remembers Linguanti; “Why did the cheese look different from one day to the next? I just had to know.” Linguanti buried himself in books and learned cheesemaking, experimenting at home after night shifts at a recycling yard. In 2008 he rented a small cheesemaking room in a larger factory and started making mozzarella, ricotta, scamorza and burrata.

Where is it?
Today, That’s Amore Cheese has a factory, café, and cheesery in Thomastown and employs 120 people. The milk is sourced from just five farms in West Gippsland and is trucked in daily.

Why it’s different
Linguanti understands quality. He knows what a difference fresh milk that is handled well makes. He knows how to hand-stretch cheese and applies this knowledge to his modern factory. To start, the milk is trucked from three Friesian dairies and two Jersey cow dairies each day. The milk is not standardised – an industrial process in which milk is physically taken apart using separators and filters to isolate fat, protein, sugars and whey and then put back together to the cheesemaker’s standards. The process damages the milk, particularly the fat globules, and Linguanti instead uses milk straight from the cow, so his cheeses taste fresh and rancidity is not a problem. He also has a light hand when it comes to pasteurisation; he doesn’t overcook the milk. From there, it is a matter of applying different techniques to make each cheese. Linguanti has an cultural culinary memory of the Italian cheeses, and his cheeses much match those expectations. Fifteen years on, Linguanti and his team are still hand-stretching the curd to make the burrata.

Who’s a fan?
“For well over a decade, I have been using That’s Amore’s cheese,” says Nicky Riemer from Bellota Wine Bar. “The way Giorgio transforms milk into something that is simultaneously light and fresh but also so rich and consistently good is remarkable.” In summer, Riemer grills fresh stone fruit and serves it with shreds of burrata, roasted almonds, jamon and fresh basil, and in spring, she serves warm podded broad beans with fresh burrata where the earthiness of the beans complements the fresh, rich tang of the creamy interior of the cheese. Telina Menzies, executive chef of Australian Venue Co, has been a fan of That’s Amore Cheese since they moved to Melbourne nine years ago. “The cheeses have become part of Melbourne’s culinary fabric,” they say. Menzies has co-developed a soft rind cheese with Linguanti that is served at Yarra Botanica, where it’s baked in sourdough and served as a rich, gooey pull-apart. “It’s a great Victorian product.”

Where can I get it?
That’s Amore Cheese is available in good delis, food stores and independent supermarkets and the factory store at 66 Latitude Boulevard, Thomastown.

By Richard Cornish