That’s Amore Cheese was started by Giorgio Linguanti in 2008. Beginning with just one product, bocconcini leaf, which was a huge hit with the Italian restaurants, Linguanti ramped things up when burrata and smoked scamorza were added to the repertoire, and was on his way to becoming one of Australia’s best-loved cheesemakers. That’s Amore’s not-so-secret weapon is top-quality milk from Victorian farms, and its artisan cheeses are made using traditional methods, free from preservatives and artificial colours. Today the company keeps a team of 100 busy making more than 60 different kinds of cheese, and its headquarters in Thomastown offers both a retail outlet and café, The Cheesery.
Here’s the big cheese himself to talk about the past, present and future of stretched-curd cheeses and beyond.
Hey Giorgio, back when you were getting started, did you have any idea burrata was going to be so huge?
No, I wasn’t thinking that burrata was going to be so popular. In fact, when the first customer asked me if I was making burrata I wasn’t familiar with this cheese if you can believe it. Back then it was very popular just around Puglia and I’m from Sicily. In saying that, I’m not surprised it became so popular; it’s the sexiest cheese on the market and presents beautifully so chefs have a great hero ingredient to work with to create something unique.
What are the five burrata dishes on menus in venues here in Victoria that you’re most excited about right now?
When we have so many customers doing fantastic work, especially in Victoria, I can’t possibly choose. But what I can tell you is that on our menu at The Cheesery in Thomastown you’ll find fresh spaghetti in Napoli sauce served with a fresh oozy burrata on top. We also incorporate burrata into our Pausini panino along with fresh mortadella and basil pesto.
What are some of the different ways you’d like people at home to try your cheeses?
Try them all! But in particular, I’d love you to pan-frying our caciocavallo, smoked bocconcini, diavoletti or caciotta. Simply slice them and place them on a hot frying pan – you don’t need to add butter or oil, because the cheeses’ natural oils will release with the heat and create a beautiful brown crust keeping the middle warm and oozy. This approach is especially good with any of our smoked cheeses as the heat enhances the smokiness and really brings them to another level.
One thing that will improve your enjoyment of any fresh mozzarella: take it out of the fridge at least half an hour before you’re going to serve it. Giving the mozzarella time to lose the fridge-chill will open up its flavours. This is especially true of buffalo mozzarella, which is at its best eaten at room temperature.
And burrata? If you want to try something different from the traditional Caprese salad, try serving it on top of a soup in winter (replacing the dollop of cream) or on top of your pasta. It’s great.
Are there any no-nos you’d like to alert us to? What about the old cheese and seafood in Italian food debate?
I’m actually a big fan of seafood and mozzarella. Fresh cheeses such as mozzarella, burrata and stracciatella are among the few cheeses that really work with fish. There’s this idea that Italians never have seafood and cheese together, when in In fact, in many parts of the country there’s a variety of cooking applications showcasing this combination of flavours.
These cheeses are delicate and fresh, and their mild flavour pairs really nicely with octopus, tuna tartare, prawns, oysters and more.
Pizza question: do you prefer your buffalo mozzarella to go on the pizza before or after it’s cooked?
I love it laid onto the hot pizza after it comes out of the oven. For me, a buffalo mozzarella that has been made the week before, so not same-day fresh, with a drizzle of olive oil, is as good as pizza gets. Why an older cheese? Buffalo mozzarella is firm when just freshly made but the older it gets the softer it becomes. This is the case only with buffalo’s milk mozzarella, too, and doesn’t apply to cow’s milk mozzarella.
And what’s your perfect cheese blend for your pizza?
I love scamorza on pizza. It’s a log of mozzarella that has a lower moisture content, which makes it even better for melting. You can slice it thinly, cube it or julienne it before you put it on your pizza; I like to cook it till it’s completely melted but not so much that it browns.
Lasagne: talk us through your cheese game here.
This may not come as a total surprise to you, but my lasagne has to be cheesy. The lasagne that we serve at our Cheesery café, for example, is layers of pasta with plenty of oozy scamorza bianca mozzarella, an abundance of Parmigiano and a thick bechamel sauce made with our full-cream milk. It’s a cheesy indulgence.
The Basques have stolen the limelight for cheesecake in recent years. How can Italy get back in the game?
In Italy, the traditional cheesecake is baked and incorporates beautiful creamy ricotta, a winning alternative to Basque cheesecake in my opinion and a little bit lighter, so you can have the full cake on your own. Another honourable mention needs to go to cassata. It’s so colourful and layered with ricotta cheese enriched with candid fruit; this could well be the next big thing in the Melbourne dessert scene.
Key question: where do you see That’s Amore 15 years from now?
I’d like to see us present in more and more retail shops and more be accessible to everyday consumers, and expand even more all around Australia. If these past 15 years are anything to go by, I’m positive that in the next 15 years people will have even more knowledge and confidence in Italian food recipes all around Australia and will be using a lot more of our products in everyday cooking.
If you grew up in Australia back in the day, “mozzarella” used to mean a shaker of dried cheese powder that you kept in the cupboard. Have you ever tried that stuff? Do you think it’s still around?
I’ve never actually tried it, but I do remember the shaker of grated cheese sold as a shelf-stable product. I have to say that in 15 years of business Australia, and in particular Melbourne, has come a long way in terms of cheese and cheese education and I’m so proud of it.