If there is one thing I can’t resist it’s really good cheese. And mozzarella cheese is definitely at the top of my list. Not that dense plastic-tasting square lump or pre-shredded crap that you find at supermarkets. Blech. None of that Polly-O string cheese either!
Instead, I’m talking about plump, supple rounds of creamy goodness that are stored in liquid. So white and shiny that you can almost see your reflection in it. Press your finger into the firm flesh and it actually moves – it’s alive. Nothing beats the taste, consistency and nutritional value of real mozzarella cheese, freshly made in Italy.
So, imagine how excited I was to hear about a shrine to all things mozzarella had popped up on Rome’s Campo dei Fiori, back in 2004. A new restaurant concept known as a mozzarella bar.
Photo Credit : Flickr
It’s called Obikà and they specialize in mozzarella cheese. Not just any mozzarella cheese either. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP, lovingly known as bufala mozzarella. It’s a mouthful, but really just a way of saying that it’s some very high-quality cheese made from the milk of water buffalo owned by selected producers in Paestum and Agro Pontino areas of southern Italy.
Along with mozzarella, Obikà serves typical artisanal products from various regions of Italy. Salumi consists of Prosciutto Crudo San Daniele, Prosciutto Toscana, Mortadella di Prato and more . Tasty sides of olives, fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes, roasted vegetables, basil pesto, caponata and artichokes can accompany your tasting.
In most of the locations, you can certainly grab a table, inside or in some cases outside – but part of the fun for me is the bar atmosphere. I like grabbing a stool at the bar, talking to the folks behind the counter, drooling over all of the fesh ingredients and watching the dishes being prepared.
Trust me when I say on a recent visit, I had a hard time choosing what to have. I sampled both the fresh and smoked mozzarella. Both balls arrived on a plate, served on a bed of fresh spinach and arugula. I washed it all down with a glass of Barbera d’Asti.
I couldn’t resist trying some prosciutto, which was also simply presented with the same arugula and cherry tomatoes alongside. As is should, it melted in by mouth like salty butter. And I drizzled lots of flavorful Tuscan olive oil right from the bottle on my crusty bread. It tasted as if I grabbed a handful of grass blades and stuffed them in my mouth. Yeah, that good.
In the mood for something more substantial? They have a menu full of appetizers, panini, pasta, salads and pizza as well. The Italian desserts aren’t to be missed and extensive Italian wine list is impressive.
Since opening that first bar in Rome in 2004, they have added additional bars in Rome, Milan, Florence, Fidenza and Palermo and two airport locations - Fiumicino and Malpensa. Locations outside Italy include London, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Istanbul.
Technically, that makes them a “chain” – a type of establishment that I’m usually vehemently opposed to. But not Obikà. For some reason, the entire concept, quality, use of imported artisanal products, and the flavor of the food really appeal to me. The mozzarella is made in Italy and imported three times a week, so the cheese you’ll be served is guaranteed to be fresh.
Obikà is one chain I don’t mind recommending and visiting frequently. Make sure to seek one out next time you’re traveling where they are located and come back and tell me about your experience!