8 Feb 2022

ViaVio Cheese - the taste of Italy, made in Nelson

From Nine To Noon, 11:30 am on 8 February 2022

Watching Kiwi chefs get creative with their award-winning fresh cheeses is one of the perks of the job for Flavia Spena and Flavio Donati from ViaVio.

Originally from Rome, the couple now produces a range of handmade Italian cheeses in Nelson.

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Photo: Kung Gay Cano

The name 'ViaVio' is a combination of the three last letters in their first names, Flavia tells Kathryn Ryan.

The mutual friend who first introduced the couple thought that as well as having similar names, Flavia and Flavio had a similar approach to life.

"That's probably true because otherwise, we wouldn't have ended up in New Zealand making cheese!" she laughs.

Flavio's connection with New Zealand dates back to his time as a professional rugby player in the 1990s when he befriended New Zealand rugby stars such as Zinzan Brooke and John Kirwan.

He and Flavia visited friends here many times before making the move to Nelson, he says, and they're now starting to feel at home thanks to the New Zealand countryside resembling Italy and Nelson's ex-pat Italian community.

What the couple did miss in Aotearoa, though, was fresh Italian cheese, so Flavio, a former accountant, and Flavia, a former executive for luxury brand Bvlgari, decided to make their own, with the help of cheese master Nicola.

He now makes 17 preservative-free Italian cheeses for ViaVio with A2 cows milk from nearby Oakland Farm and in the case of their aged pecorino, sheep milk from Canterbury.

ViaVio's fresh mozzarella - made via biological fermentation - is totally different from the factory-made supermarket mozzarella that contains citric acid, Flavio says.

Their mascarpone - which was crowned Emerson's Dairy Champion at the NZ Food Producer Awards - is also very different to the supermarket varieties that are propped up with preservatives, he says.

Although their fresh cheese sells at select farmers markets and stores around Aotearoa, restaurants are their biggest customers, Flavia says.

"The chefs, especially the ones that have travelled, know exactly what we are making. They like good quality, they like the fact that it's made in New Zealand, they talk to us about recipes… We are particularly proud when we all the chefs making beautiful dishes with our products."


Creamy Mascarpone and Smoked Salmon Tagliatelle

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Photo: Supplied

Spinach and Stracchino Risotto

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Photo: Supplied