On the outskirts of Sapporo, city life fades away as herds of cows speckle the fields on the hills. This is where Fattoria Bio has made Italian style cheeses since 2013. In the cool dampness of the cheese room, Italians work alongside Japanese. Caciocavallo hangs in the corner. Grana ages among its friends upstairs. In the middle of it all, Italian and Japanese cheesemakers work together to stretch some mozzarella and burrata into beautiful rounds. With Italian signs and pasta filata cheeses all around, it’s easy to forget that this is still Japan.
The first notion of Fattoria Bio in Hokkaido came from Elio Orsara, an Italian chef who came to Japan in 1991 to work in the country’s best hotels. Orsara understood the value of hospitality and quality ingredients from his childhood where he spent much of his time at his grandmother’s “locanda”. When he opened his own Italian restaurant, Elio Locanda, in Tokyo in 1996, he wove the same values he grew up with into the fabric of the restaurant.
From the beginning, Orsara made his own fresh cheeses in house but still wondered why no one produced good Italian cheeses in Japan. Partnering with Hiroyuki Takahashi (now CEO of Fattorio Bio Hokkaido), Orsara endeavored to create a cheesemaking operation focused on quality Italian cheeses. Takahashi understood the importance of this conviction and began the hunt for Japanese milk that could match the requirements of Italian cheeses.
From the region of Calabria in Italy, Orsara looked homeward for traditional cheesemakers to work with and use as a model. On the Sila Plateau, Fattoria Bio’s Grillo family has been making cheese for 4 generations. To this day, they protect and value traditional cheesemaking methods. The Grillo family still practices transhumance, moving their herds up and down the mountains with the season. Fattoria Bio in Hokkaido is the offspring of this amazing farm and dairy in rural Calabria.
In Hokkaido, after 5 years of searching, they finally found the right high quality milk just outside of Sapporo. Everyday milk is brought from the town of Kita Hiroshima to the Fattoria Bio cheesemaking facility. What couldn’t be faked was the years of inherited tradition and technique in cheesemaking of Italy that barely exist in Japan's young cheese industry. Fortunately, they didn’t have to look too far for the right cheese master.
Giovanni Graziano spent his childhood in Calabria helping his father, who was also a cheesemaker. When he was just 20 years old, he started work as the Cheese Master for Fattoria Bio in Calabria, where he stayed for 15 years. Graziano moved to Japan to start Fattoria Bio in Hokkaido and now runs the cheesemaking operation. He is the face of Fattoria Bio Hokkaido, assuring that all the cheeses are up the standards of a great Italian cheesemaker.
Currently, Fattoria Bio in Hokkaido makes 20 styles of Italian cheeses including mozzarella, burrata, bocconcini, caciocavallo, ricotta, and grana. They received awards at both the Mondial du Fromage and the Japan Cheese Awards. Most cheeses are sold online (here) and through direct orders from restaurants and high-end department stores. Some cheeses can be found at Elio Locanda Restaurant, Isetan Shinjuku Department Store, or National Azabu Supermarket in Tokyo.
Fattoria Bio is a collaboration between two countries with one singular purpose — to make truly great Italian cheeses for Japan. Instead of importing cheeses that suffer from milage and the hindrance of cost, Fattoria Bio imported Italians with the inherited skills to make Italian cheeses with high-quality Hokkaido milk. It is a marriage of quality and tradition, two things highly valued in both Japan and Italy. Fattoria Bio delivers with perfection.