• Ricotta calda served over stale bread at Floridia Cheese in Thomastown. (Tania Cammarano)
Eating ricotta calda feels like a hug from a Sicilian nonna, but you have to head straight to the source to try it.
By
Tania Cammarano

7 Feb 2020 - 2:41 PM  UPDATED 7 Feb 2020 - 3:23 PM

“We should get up early and go and eat ricotta calda (hot ricotta) on Saturday, like the old days.”

Growing up this was the regular summons I heard from my Sicilian nonna.

“Can’t we just go to the movies or hang out at the beach, like normal (read: non-Italian) people?” Teenage me would reply.

“Ahhh,” Nonna would admonish, “but you don’t know what it was like! We’d go in a big group and take our own pots, and as soon as the ricotta was made, they would fill them up. Then we have a picnic and eat it with yesterday’s bread. The old days were the best days...”

This picture from 1964 shows an Italian migrant eating ricotta calda on a picnic in Sunbury, Victoria. Reproduced with permission of Co.As.It – Italian Historic

“I’m busy Saturday,” I’d say. 

So Nonna would go eat hot ricotta with her pensioner mates and I would spend Saturday morning tending to the very important business of watching Video Hits.

Years later, with Nonna sadly no longer around to tell me the old days were the best days, I realised I never ate ricotta calda with her. So, in her honour, Mum and I set out on a hot ricotta pilgrimage, as you can only try it where it is made.  

First stop was the Floridia Cheese factory shop in Thomastown, north of Melbourne.

Luckily, you don’t need to bring your own pot anymore. For $5.50 you can buy a small still-warm bucket of just-made ricotta, so fresh that the curds are swimming in the whey.

The whey, or siero in Italian, is poured over the hot ricotta and stale bread at Floridia Cheese in Thomastown.

We spoon the ricotta into bowls with stale bread we have brought from home. The ricotta is soft and fluffy, the flavour subtle but comforting. It’s like a hug.

Founded by Mauro and Carmela Montalto, and named after Nonna’s hometown, Floridia has made Italian-style cheese since 1955.

Rose Portella, Mauro’s granddaughter who still runs the business with her family, recalls how groups such as the Floridia Social Club gathered for Easter Monday picnics at their old factory in Bundoora.

The tradition was “all about belonging. You know, some would be without family members [who were still in Italy], but here they were with their extended family.”

“They would bring their pots in the morning, for breakfast, and fill them up with hot ricotta. Then at lunchtime they would fire up their barbies. They’d practically be there all day,” Portella tells me.

The tradition was “all about belonging. You know, some would be without family members [who were still in Italy], but here they were with their extended family.”

These picnics still happen, says Portella, but now the factory is in Thomastown, there isn’t room on site, so the Italians will call ahead to pick up their hot ricotta.

Boys from the extended Montalto family eating hot ricotta in Floridia, the small town in Sicily Rose Portella’s family is from. Photo from Floridia Cheese.

Still in Thomastown, our second stop is That’s Amore Cheese. Instead of a factory outlet, there’s a deli and a café, which has two ricotta calda dishes. You can choose sweet with honey, waffles and a berry compote, or savoury with local olives, crusty bread and olive oil.  

“We sell it in the bucket too, but every time somebody tries it in the cafe, they say ‘oh wow. I never tried something like this before. It’s buonissimo!’”

Giorgio Linguanti, who founded That’s Amore in 2008 four years after migrating from Sicily, says ricotta is part of the identity of Southern Italians. He is not surprised that Italians here would continue the tradition.

“In Sicily, it’s just what you do… once a month I was going with my plate and my spoon and my bread, break the bread, go there, they put ricotta straight onto the bread directly, you would eat it. Ahh!” he says.

Tania (left) and Lidia enjoying the sweet and savoury ricotta calda dishes at That’s Amore Cheese in Thomastown. Photo by That’s Amore Cheese.

“People here don’t know [to eat hot ricotta] and that’s why we put it on the menu.”

“We sell it in the bucket too, but every time somebody tries it in the cafe, they say ‘oh wow. I never tried something like this before. It’s buonissimo!’”

Mum and I agree. The ricotta has a fine texture and is very delicate.

“Ricotta is also very healthy, a low-fat protein,” Linguanti tells us. ”It’s a superfood. I don’t know if you know this?”

Nonna, no doubt, knew this, because nonne know everything.

You can find ricotta calda at these locations:

Floridia Cheese
327 Settlement Road, Thomastown, VIC

That’s Amore Cheese
66 Latitude Boulevard, Thomastown, VIC

Paesanella Cheese 
150-152 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville NSW

La Vera Cheese 
12-14 Hamilton Terrace, Shop 3, Newton, Adelaide, SA

Casa Motta
3/58 Wecker Road Mansfield QLD

Borrello Cheese
59 Rice Road, Oakford WA


Love the story? Follow the author on Twitter here: @lamingtonslasag. Dr Tania Cammarano is a lecturer in the Food Studies program at William Angliss Institute in Melbourne. She misses cooking and eating with her nonna.

Find more uses for your leftover ricotta in episode five of the brand-new series Cook like an Italian, available to watch on SBS On Demand. Head to the website for recipes, articles, tips and more.

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