Frigo's offers the best of Italy

Joe Frigo hold part of a wheel of the Bertinelli parmigiano cheese that he recently added to his store.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD Joe Frigo wants to you to reconsider parmigiano cheese.

We all have a can of grated parmesan "shake cheese" sitting in our refrigerator ready to dust a pasta dish or a soup, but there is much, much potential to a cheese most Americans know but don't know well, Frigo said.

Cheese has been part of the Frigo family's heritage since his grandfather came to this country in 1930 with his five brothers and started making cheese in Wisconsin.

And a visit to Frigo Foods on Williams Street in the city's South End shows the store is a major cheese seller with many varieties in their cases. Frigo's is now carrying three parmigiano cheeses made by the Bertinelli company.

Frigo and his family took a trip this year to northern Italy and visited the Bertinelli farm. He explained that cheese production for this company is all-inclusive they own the farm on which the milk is produced so they can control every aspect of production.

"That's what we found so unique," he said.

Like other parmigiano producers, Bertinelli isn't interested in mass production, Frigo explained. He compared it to wine production.

"It's the art behind it," he said.

The company even monitors the stress levels of their dairy herd. A stressed-out cow can lead to milk that isn't suited for cheese production, Frigo explained. The rejected milk doesn't go to waste, Frigo explained. It feeds pigs at nearby farms that are on their way to becoming prosciutto.

The cheese makers live at the plant, adding to the hands-on approach to making their products.

Bertinelli produces three parmigiano cheeses, based on aging: one year, two years and three years. The three varieties are colored-coded so shoppers know quickly which variety they are buying. The cheeses range in cost from $16.99 to $21.95 a pound.

Frigo stressed that this parmigiano is not just for grating.

And Frigo has recipes on hand that show the cheese's versatility from its use in Fettuccine Alfredo to a rustic cheese tort to minted poached pears.

"It's a great table cheese," he said. "It goes great with white wine."

Frigo believes his store is the only one in the state outside of Boston carrying the Bertinelli parmigiano.