I couldn't wait to get over to Tedone Latticini this morning, for what is easily the best fresh mozzarella I've ever had here in New York. Rich, salty, and so creamy that it would actually ooze a little bit when you cut into it, with a tender but firm texture that revealed it's hand-worked properties. It's distinctly unique compared to other good mozzarella, and it makes anything from a supermarket seem like bland, white play-doh.
This place isn't exactly unknown, as the Times and a few other blogs have picked up on it (there's a nice slideshow here at the NY Times), but overall most people I talk to about it have no idea it's there. It was a nearly unmarked, seemingly random old storefront on Metropolitan Avenue that you'd never think to just walk into and get the best mozzarella of your life. I lived a few blocks away for probably a whole year without ever even thinking to venture inside.
Today, I had a bunch of fresh, perfectly ripe tomatoes brought back from my parent's garden upstate. And pretty much ever since I laid eyes on them, I've been counting the moments until they would meet that fresh, creamy mozzarella. This morning was supposed to be that morning.
But when I arrived, there was no mozzarella. There was no smile from Georgiana (Georgie, as she was always known in the store) Tedone's 90-year old face looking out the window. No counter, no refrigerators. Nothing actually, except for a few random items leftover, and a couple guys tearing down and cleaning out the old store.
One of the men came out, clearly noticing the look of sheer disbelief on our faces, and said "don't worry, she's still alive, she just decided to finally retire..." Before I could even get the next question out, he answered, "no more mozzarella."
And sadly, that's that. I left, stunned and saddened. I had my selfish reasons today, but it's also a real loss for the neighborhood, and for all of New York. One of the true, old masters doing one thing, perfectly, the way she was taught long, long ago. You can't get mozzarella like that just anywhere. You don't find too many 90-year women who've been getting up at 3am, 6 days a week, to make fresh cheese since they were 16 years old. That is something very, very special. And now it's gone.
Some time ago, I read that she decided not to pass on her family tradition, her secrets, for whatever reason. That when she passed away or retired, the cheese would too. I guess I never wanted to believe it. And had I known that day would be today, I probably would have savored the last ball of mozzarella, whenever I had it, a little bit more.
Thank you Georgie, and enjoy your retirement. You will be missed.