Italian cheesemaker Mauro Rozzi has been making cheese for 46 years, and if he knows one thing, it is this: the cheese never forgets.

That’s why Rozzi doesn’t make mistakes when he is handcrafting artisan cheeses. At age 62, he has learned to incorporate a strict, almost Zen-like focus in the make room and aging cellars where he works at BelGioioso Cheese in Denmark, Wis.

I got the chance to sit down with Rozzi last week and he told me “good cheese does not forgive. Any mistake made in the cheese vat is only compounded in the aging room. Precise steps must be followed intricately, and the passion must come within. Making cheese isn’t a job. It’s a calling.”

Especially if that cheese is Italico, an elegant, surface-ripened cheese that takes more than 33 hours to hand make before it ever hits the aging room. Taking its heritage from the valleys in northern Italy, Italico is modeled after Tallegio, but with Rozzi’s unique touch, has become a true American Original since BelGioioso launched it three years ago.

Made from pasteurized whole milk, Italico was just waiting to be made in Wisconsin, Rozzi says. “You need exceptionally good, clean milk to make this cheese. It must be fresh with low acidity and Wisconsin’s climate is perfect to produce the milk needed – very similar to the climate in northern Italy.”

The make process for Italico is particularly complex, requiring devout attention from the cheesemaker who crafts it. Made in 10-pound blocks, it travels from the vat to a mold to a “purgatory” room (where it rests) to a brine room before being rolled into an aging cellar. There, it is hand-turned twice a week and washed with a ripening shmear. At 90 days old, it meets the customer.

Once out of the wrapper, Italico’s earthy, nutty and buttery taste is perfect as a table cheese, or can be used as an ingredient in Panini sandwiches or appetizers and desserts. Yum!!

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