The Cheesemakers   

Luca Mignogna

I was born in Campobasso, capitol of Molise, Italy. Molise is one of the smallest Italian regions, located in the middle of the Apennines. This land has an ancient history that goes back to the Romans, and is at the intersection of roads that for hundreds of years were traveled by goats, sheep and cattle as they moved from the pastures in the winter to the high mountains in the summer. The economy and society in this region have always been centered around this agricultural cycle. And the cheeses are obviously an important part of our history, still prepared today as they were centuries ago.

I grew up on both the wonderful farm of my grandfather Francesco and in my grandmother Angelina’s restaurant. From my earliest years, I learned so many lessons from the patriarch of our family, grandfather Francesco, and my father Giuseppe, that life comes from the earth. I have gained a deep respect for the laws of nature. From my grandfather, I have learned the importance of roots and traditions, the importance of sustainable agriculture, and that we truly reap that which we sow.

The aroma of my grandfather’s barn was rich with the smells of wild herbs, aging wine, and the making of cheese. Batches of home-made mozzarella, caciocavallo, scamorze, and ricotta were a daily part of our life and our meals. For many years, the artisan sauces of my grandfather and grandmother were served at the Grand Bar of the Grand Hotel of Rome by the unforgettable Mauro Lotti.  

As I grew older, during my holidays, I would often work at the Santo Stefano’s caseificio (cheese factory) in Carovilli, one of the oldest and most important in Molise, owned by an old family friend, Roberto d’Andrea. And even now, whenever I go back home, I return to the cheese factory to help prepare cheese in the same way that I helped my grandfather many years ago.

After graduating with a degree in accounting from the college in Campobasso, I followed in the tradition of my grandmother in the restaurant industry. I’ve traveled the world in search of new experiences that would combine my passion for the traditions of the Old World with new technologies. My background has spanned small trattorias to the most important hotels in the world, where I’ve been able to leverage my professionalism, my respect for the traditional kitchen and the techniques of modern cuisine. My passion for fine food has led me from Europe to Japan to the United States, where I have worked in some of the finest restaurants and hotels in the world, including the Savoy in London and Manresa in Los Gatos, California.

Now, I am finally following my passion...cheese...and I hope to share this with you!