The Shuswap is about to become home to the only organic Italian cheese factory in Western Canada, and one of a few in the entire country.
Tanto Latte is the passion project of husband and wife duo Luigi Ornaghi and Susana Crimi, a pair of experienced culinary artists whose goal is to create a business founded on quality above all else.
Ornaghi, a former five-star executive chef, discovered his passion for producing cheese after taking a course in 2006 just before leaving his home country of Italy to travel to the United States. To him, the delicate process of crafting a fresh cheese is not so far removed from the art of putting together the perfect meal.
“You know when you work in a kitchen and you build your dish, it is the same as building your product and making this product unique in certain ways. To me, right now, it’s just about doing a healthy product. This is so difficult to find,” he says. “It’s very challenging, especially the Italian ones. But my goal is to produce a very authentic and healthy product. When I say healthy, I mean just milk, that’s it. No colouring, no preservatives, no milk powder or protein powder, nothing. Just straight away how the old-fashioned people made cheese.”
Tanto Latte’s signature offering will be fresh bocconcini mozzarella, a soft, white cheese that, while perhaps most famous for its use as a pizza topping, is a very popular fresh cheese to serve along with salads or white wines. They will also produce other varieties of Italian cheeses, such as burrata, ricotta, provolone, stracchino and primo sale. Most of their cheeses will be certified organic, though Crimi notes they will offer a line of wholesale products that contain small amounts of preservatives to maintain a longer shelf life.
While he may not be the only person in Canada producing these cheeses, Ornaghi’s commitment to an organic, artisanal product crafted from locally-sourced ingredients sets Tanto Latte apart from the crowd. The milk, salt, cultures and other ingredients used in Ornaghi’s cheese production will be almost exclusively sourced from within the Okanagan.
Ornaghi’s wife, Susana Crimi, says the focus on locally sourced products will extend beyond their cheeses into almost everything they sell. Tanto Latte will feature a small storefront café where customers can enjoy cheese and meat trays paired with Okanagan wine and craft beers, as well as fresh-baked goods from local bakers. They will also be selling traditional Italian pastas, risotto and other foods that can be cooked alongside their cheeses to create a full meal.
“I prefer rather than to spend two hours on it myself, it is good to support somebody local who does beautiful work,” she says. “I really believe in that way of living. I think you attract whatever you put out there.”
Crimi will be joining her husband in this newest culinary endeavour, managing the shop and taking great pleasure in meeting new people as the front-facing member of the team.
“I have had many different kinds of jobs but the one that I really enjoy is dealing with people because I have fun with it and I really love it,” she says. “I love this because if there is a customer that is a regular, I can sit with them and chat. I want to enjoy my day to day, at this time in my life I need to enjoy every day. Because that counts.”
She explains that, despite being from Argentina originally, she is very fond of the Italian perspective on what is important when it comes to customer service.
“In Italy, the most important thing is how you treat your customer. And the figure of the owner dealing with people is very appreciated in the food industry there,” she says. “You know, if you are in this field the customer is everything!”
Tanto Latte has completed their inspections for commercial food production and hope to open their doors to the public by May 29. Their retail location is tucked away just past Save-on-Foods at 1481 10 Avenue SW.