July 1, 2009
Roberto Pietra from Pavia, Italy (an hour south of Milano), has been making cheese for decades at some of the most prestigious factories of formaggio in the world. Last winter, Roberto was in rural Wisconsin helping set up a state-of-the-art mascarpone factory when the Italian Language Village dean, Eric Dario Dregni, was called to the factory to translate for this cheese master. Dario took the opportunity to invite Roberto to work at the camp in northern Minnesota for the summer, knowing that Lago del Bosco is one of the few places in the U.S. where Italian is the preferred language and that Roberto only speaks Italian and his Pavese dialect.
By the time Roberto accepted the invitation, unfortunately, all staffing funds had been otherwise committed. Nevertheless, Roberto and his wife, Giuliana, paid their own way to fly from Italy to Minnesota and spend ten days at Lago del Bosco to share their love and knowledge of Italian cheese with the villagers. Roberto fit right in and soon became known as Il maestro di formaggio, or simply "the cheez wiz."
Aided by kitchen staff members Gabriella, Letizia, and the assistant cook Alberto, Roberto made several different Italian cheeses, including ricotta, caciotta, and robiola fresco, with the cultures that he personally imported from Italy and with fresh non-homogenized milk from local Minnesota farms. He even invented a new type of fresh cheese he named "Formaggio Lago del Bosco" in honor of the camp. Generously, Roberto said that maybe someday this cheese will be famous worldwide and all proceeds can go to a permanent site for the Italian Language Village.
Meanwhile, his wife, Giuliana, used some of the award-winning mascarpone that Roberto had made while working at Lake Country Dairy in Turtle Lake, Wis., to make enough tiramisù for everyone in the Village. In honor of Roberto's visit to the Italian camp, Lake Country Dairy donated not only the best mascarpone in the U.S., but a wheel of their domestic parmesan that even some of the Italians confused with the best parmigiano-reggiano from Italy.
As the finale of his stay at Lago del Bosco, during the final banquet, Roberto dipped his hands in a hot mixture of curds and whey and stretched the stringy strands a good two feet as villagers clicked their cameras. Roberto looked like a rock star amidst the flashbulbs of the paparazzi. He formed balls of the fresh white cheese and plopped them dramatically in the bucket of water for all to see. At Lago del Bosco in northern Minnesota, he'd made what many tourists travel across an ocean to sink their teeth into: fresh mozzarella, the best cheese of them all!