Tenuta Vannulo is to mozzarella di bufala a bit what Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate are to Cabernet Sauvignon: artisanal, scarce, legendary. At 8 a.m., people are already queueing at the doors of the bottega for cheese made just two or three hours earlier. Next door, the café-yogurteria sells yogurt, pudding, ricotta, and gelato, all made with buffalo milk. The state-of-the-art facilities include massage machinery for the buffalo, who line up placidly for their turn under the rollers (a relaxed cow is a bountiful one, the theory goes). Antonio and his wife, Caterina, are constructing an inn to host overnight guests—clients, potential clients, friends, and those whose love of real mozzarella has brought them here in pilgrimage. Housed in a small renovated farm building, it consists of two opulent suites. Pompeii red and terra-cotta dominate; Neoclassical antiques are scattered about. The Versace-esque overtones, totally place-appropriate here in Magna Graecia, are quite beautiful. Below the rooms is a tasting cellar, damp and mineral-smelling, with subtle recessed lighting and tables where guests who opt for a private tasting session will be served products prepared especially for the occasion. Chic, quiet, stylish, this little relais could easily be found in the center of Rome. Except that a few miles away are temples that predate most of Rome’s architecture; and you can’t get Vannulo mozzarella di bufala, or Vannulo anything, in a Roman supermarket—or, for that matter, in an Amalfi supermarket.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.