Parmigiano Reggiano: Burglars, Banks and A Fifth Generation Family

Parmigiano Reggiano is essential to the economy in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. That may not be so surprising in and of itself but, did you know that the local banks there accept cheese as collateral? Cravero Parmigiano ReggianoIn 2009, Credito Emiliano had two climate controlled warehouses where they stored roughly 440,000 wheels of Parmigiano. All total, those wheels were worth approximately $187 million.

Parmigiano Reggiano was also considered sufficiently valuable to be the target of a heist. In February of 2009, thieves tunneled into a parm warehouse and stole 570 wheels before they were caught. Honestly, one wonders how well thought out the plan was, considering each wheel of parm weighs about 80-lbs. and bears a unique serial number (much like money) to identify it. The funniest part of the story, however, was the remark made by the vault manager after the cheese had been recovered: “Thank heavens we caught the robbers before they grated it!”*

Given the vast size of the Parmigiano Reggiano market, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of producers and variations in quality. Side of a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano CraveroThis is why we are thrilled to be working with the Cravero family, based out of Bra, a mountain village in central Piedmont and home of the bi-annual Slow Food cheese festival known in the industry simply as “Cheese.”

For five generations, the Craveros have been hand-selecting young wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano from the finest farms of Emilia-Romagna. After selection, they transport wheels to their maturation caves in Bra. When we visited the Cravero family in 2007, they showed us their shipping journal, dating back to the 1860s. It was a handmade, leather-bound tome with aged vellum pages filled with beautiful Italian script. Heritage and tradition were clearly important. Tags from Cravero wheels cracked on the Formaggio cheese counterToday, Giorgio Cravero runs the family business with his wife, Barbara, and young son Giacomo. Giorgio is a smart, good-natured and very funny man who has complete dedication to and faith in his product.

While each wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano varies with the season, we find that Cravero parm tends to have a moist texture and flavors of pineapple, baked bread, and grass flavors. Well cared for and sourced from farms of the highest quality, it’s what we recommend to customers looking to include a Parmigiano on a cheese platter, in an antipasto selection or to grate over pastas with delicate sauces that won’t overwhelm the nuances of the cheese.

If you’re in Cambridge, stop by for a taste of the Cravero family’s Parmigiano Reggiano.  At the moment, we have both two-year and three-year old wheels!

Note: Some folks ask about the distinction between Parmesan and Parmigiano Reggiano. Parmigiano Reggiano is a DOP cheese. Parmesan is an imitation Parmigiano Reggiano made outside of the approved DOP regions.

*To read more about the economics of Parmigiano Reggiano banking and the theft, check out this article, the source for much of the information in the first two paragraphs of this post.