Rad A. Drew Photography: Cheesemaker and Mayor of Terravecchia

Continental Divide at Dawn

Continental Divide at Dawn
Continental Divide at Dawn

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Cheesemaker and Mayor of Terravecchia

Paulo Pignataro Leads a Double Life!

Paulo Pignataro, Cheesemaker and mayor of Terravechia, Italy

Paulo Pignataro in the Calabria region of Italy leads a double life.

In one life he is the new mayor of the medieval village of Terravecchia, in the Calabria region of Italy, and his mission is to breathe new life into the historic community.

In his other life, the one that has been his livelihood, he is a cheesemaker who makes cheese by hand in the old way. 

Paulo's life as a cheesemaking artisan faced a challenge when he decided to become mayor. How would he manage his cheesemaking and his mayoral responsibilities?

When we first met, he invited me to a traditional Italian lunch in a small restaurant in his village of Terrevicchia. We were joined by his two young sons and his mayoral assistant, Vanessa Filaretti, and others from his staff. 

Lunch was a boisterous family affair and featured a meal of local meats, vegetables, cheeses, anchovies, and red wine. As we ate, various locals paraded through the bar to say hi and to meet the visiting American curiosity! 

Lunch conversation was limited by my lack of Italian but Vanessa graciously translated many of my questions and Paulo’s answers. It was during this lunch conversation that I learned about Paulo’s other passion: artisanal cheese making. 

He explained that it is with the help of Vanessa, other staff, and community members, that he manages his mayoral responsibilities while continuing his work making cheeses.

Unlike much of today’s cheese manufacturing, Paola makes his cheeses by hand using traditional methods. And, he also raises the cows that produce the milk used in his cheeses. This allows him to influence all of the raw materials needed and to ensure their quality. His cheeses are sold throughout Italy and used in local restaurants. A few nights after meeting Paulo, I had dinner in a nearby gourmet pizza restaurant in Cariati run by an award-winning chef who features Paulo’s cheeses on his pizzas and other gourmet dishes. (Watch for my blog post about gourmet pizza making in Cariati!)

Here are a few photos showing Paulo at work making cheese, along with some of his products, and a couple of photos of the village that Paulo serves as mayor.

The Village of Terravecchia

The Medieval Village of Terravecchi where Paulo is Mayor.

Villagers from Terravecchia;
Paulo is standing next to me, 3rd from right in the second row,
with his Mayoral Assistant, Venessa Filareti, on my left.
That's my host, Fabio, in the green shirt taking the selfie.

The 224-year-old elm tree in the heart of Terravecchia
 is a source of pride among villagers.

Paulo Making Cheese