For someone with a cheese fetish, all of Sicily was heaven, but I found the the holy grail one morning in Syracuse while wandering through the fresh market. Tucked behind the temporary vendors at the very end of the market was Caseificio Borderi (Borderi Dairy), a small family-run shop specializing in traditional hand-made Sicilian cheese.
I was staying in a hostel, where I could cook my own meals. Since there is nothing better than a breakfast of fresh baked bread drizzled in rich olive oil and topped with a tasty chunk of local cheese, I wedged my way through the throng and into the shop to peruse the mind-boggling array of cheeses in the glass case and on the counter top. Fortunately, one of the owners was happy to educate me about Ragusano, a type of stretched-curd cheese made with whole milk from modicana breed cows, raised exclusively of fresh grass or hay in the provinces of Ragusa and Siracusa, Sicily (see video below).
I finally put down my camera and took a bite. A bit softer and milder than Parmesan, it melted in my mouth. The combination of olive oil, chopped mint, and lemon zest garnish perfectly enhanced its flavor. There was no question about which cheese I would buy.
The story of Caseifico Borderi began in 1930 with Don Pasquale Borderi, who specialized in the trade of Sicilian extra virgin olive oils. Eventually he diversified into typical Sicilian cheeses and brought his son, Andrea, into the business. Andrea devoted himself to studying the dairy sector and by 1998 he was a master cheesemaker and had opened Borderi craft dairy farm. Today the dairy sells its products at their artisan cheese factory in Floridia, in the province of Syracuse, and in the fresh market on the island of Ortygia, in the city of Syracuse. Through the years, the family has diversified into wine, antipasti, mozzarella-stuffed vegetables, and made-to-order sandwiches that many claim are the best in town.
Per tradition, all their cheeses are made by hand, following rigorous practices that strive for quality rather than mass production. Their Ragusano variety was awarded Italian Denominazione di Origine protection in 1955 and EU Protected Designation of Origin status in 1995, making it a true artisan product of Sicily.