Wine Gone Bad
DC Restaurant Week - January 2008

Mozzarella di Bufala Campana

Packaging Like most Americans, I grew up knowing three kinds of mozzarella: shredded (for use on English muffin pizzas), low-moisture blocks (for dicing and using in lasagna and other baked dishes), and Polly-O String Cheese (for use in school lunches).  It wasn't until later that I learned about fresh mozzarella - with its soft texture and its slightly salty tang, it was like a completely different cheese.  But this revelation was just a first step, and the "fresh" mozzarella I was enjoying still came from large producers like Polly-O and Belgioioso.  I had yet to try mozzarella in its purest and most delicious form:  mozzarella di bufala campana (buffalo mozzarella).

Buffalo mozzarella is a fresh cheese made from the milk of water buffalo (not the American bison many people visualize when they hear 'buffalo').  When made by hand, the process involves finely chopping the curd from buffalo milk, immersing it in hot water (to stiffen the curd), kneading the stiffened curd and separating it into individual balls.  These balls are then soaked in brine (to absorb salt to help the cheese maintain its texture), and then stored in their own whey to preserve them for up to 24 hours.  This production method can be traced back to at least the twelfth century, and it results in a cheese that is at once creamy and tangy, soft and chewy.

Eager to compare mozzarella di bufala side by side with cow's milk mozzarella, I bought both along withExteriors  some prosciutto di Parma from A. Litteri, a tiny warehouse of a store in Northeast DC nearby to H Street and Gallaudet University.  Litteri is the real deal - a more authentic version of the Italian Store in Arlington.  They carry a wide range of imported Italian food items, a variety of wines at some very competitive price points, and selection of fresh-frozen pastas and sauces.  But they are best known for their deli counter, which features a great variety of cold cuts, cheeses, and delicacies like stuffed peppers, assorted olives and salt-packed capers.  They also offer some of the best made-to-order sandwiches available in the city.  But I digress.

I returned home with my purchases and began my examination.  At first glance, the two seemed quite similar - despite the differences in their sizes, the balls had similar colors and external textures.  But there were two things that struck me about the mozzarella di bufala: it had significantly more irregularity along its surface, showing numerous strands of curd where the cow's milk mozzarella was largely smooth; and it felt softer when pressed, as though it were holding in quite a bit of liquid.

Interior I then proceeded to cut the two mozzarellas in half, so I could take a look at their interiors.  The differences between the two cheeses were more readily apparent at this point.  The knife slid through the mozzarella di bufala with minimal resistance, and the cheese immediately began to release its moisture.  As I had felt, there was quite a bit of whey stored within the cheese.  In addition to their different moisture contents, the cheeses presented very different cross-sections.  The buffalo mozzarella looked as though it were made from layered strands of curd that had been pressed together, while the cow's milk mozzarella gave a much more solid and uniform appearance.  It held its shape better and required more force to slice through it without flattening it in the process.

PlateFinally, I moved on to taste.  I plated the two cheeses on either side of my prosciutto and noticed again  the difference in texture and moisture (the mozzarella di bufala is on the left in the picture to the right).  Then I took a bite from one of the slices of mozzarella di bufala, and I was stunned.  I am a big fan of insalata caprese, a simple 'salad' of fresh basil, sliced tomatoes and mozarella drizzled in olive oil, but I often find that I need to add salt and pepper to fresh cow's milk mozzarella to give it any flavor beyond a fresh, light cheese taste.  The buffalo mozzarella made it immediately clear that no such seasoning was necessary - it already boasted a salty tang that lingered even after the slice had all but melted away in my mouth.  The wet texture and the freshness of the curds allowed them to dissolve quickly as I was chewing, something I had never experienced with fresh cow's milk mozzarella.  This was mozzarella taken to an entirely different level.

A. Litteri's sells mozzarella di bufala campana in 250g (~8.5 ounces) balls for $8.99, but it is widely available in cheese shops, specialty stores and even grocery stores like Harris Teeter and Trader Joe's at a variety of price points.  I would encourage you to think carefully about where you buy, however, as buffalo mozzarella is at its best very soon after it is made.  If it has been sitting on a grocery store shelf for a week or more, its quality is very likely to suffer.  This is a cheese best enjoyed as soon as possible, and your best bet for fresh mozzarella di bufala is a cheese shop or a trusted deli counter.  Enjoy!



Or go to Dino as theirs is super fresh! I forget what days they get it in though.


Have you tried fresh handmade mozzerella? Nothing beats a fresh warm ball right out of the pot. I haven't found a place in DC/MD/VA that makes it. If you are ever up in New York City, look for Joe's Dairy neary Soho and the village.
They make wonderful mozzerella handmade on sight. Arrive in the early afternoon to get a warm fresh ball, soft as butter.


I personally want to become comfortable making cheeses such as mozzarella and ricotta. Here's a company that has great cheesemaking starter kits:
And yes, go to someone you trust for freshness. I bought a burrata from the Italian Store a while back and it was over a week past it's sell by date. Stunk like garbage on a hot day.

Mike Bober

J - Excellent suggestion! I'm going to give them a call this week to find out what days they get it in and I'll report back.

ScubaKay - I have not tried it, but I would love to! I got the Atlas of American Artisan Cheese for Christmas, so I'll have to see if it can recommend somewhere nearby that might offer the opportunity.

Ramona - Sorry to hear about your bad burrata experience. I hope you complained and got it replaced! I know Cheesetique gets burrata regularly, so you might want to check with them next time.


Anyone know where 2 Amys gets their Buffalo and Cow Mozzarella from? Both are so tasty.

I think I prefer Buffalo Mozzarella in it's raw (unmelted) form, and Cow's milk Mozzarella for melting.

Mike Bober

SB - I think I agree with you on your preferences. As for your question on 2 Amy's mozzarella, I called them and asked. They told me they buy from EuroGourmet, in Beltsville. You can check them out online at

ScubaKay - As promised, I checked out the Atlas of American Artisan Cheeses. They list two producers of fresh mozzarella in the DC/MD/VA area, though neither of them appear to offer on-site sales. Those producers are the Blue Ridge Mountain Dairy, in Leesburg, and Fields of Grace Farms in Remington.

Blue Ridge sells at FreshFarm Markets (DuPont Circle, Penn Quarter, Courthouse) and local WholeFoods.

Fields of Grace sells at farmers markets year-round in Courthouse and Falls Church. May through October they sell in Vienna, Annandale and Burke.

Hopefully one of them can help you in your quest!

Mike Bober

J - I spoke to Dean at Dino this morning, and he told me that their supplier gets the cheese in fresh on Sundays and Thursdays.

But he also told me that he orders cheese from them six days a week, and that he rarely orders more than he anticipates needing for any given day.

Sounds like you can pretty much count on the cheese at Dino being nice and fresh, as expected.

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