As a child, Lourdes was mesmerized by her grandfather’s store, Fiore’s of Hoboken. She watched him carefully stretch fresh mozzarella, anticipating the moment when he would offer her the first bite of freshly made cheese – that warm, buttery magic. Inspired by her grandfather’s gift and longing for the simple pleasure of eating his handcrafted cheese, she rediscovered her roots so she could begin making mozzarella herself.
Lourdes traced her family history back to 1908, when her great-grandfather, Alphonso Fiore, sold his dairy farm in Corato, Italy to begin a new life with his family in America. By 1913, Alphonso had a thriving cheese-making business in Hoboken, New Jersey. Two of his daughters and one of his sons opened their own stores in the boroughs of New York and Jersey City, New Jersey. The third daughter bought some land in New York State and started a dairy farm. Lourdes’ grandfather, Joseph, the youngest, took over his father’s store in 1927.
Although Joseph had wanted to design children’s clothing (that is how he met Lourdes’ grandmother, a seamstress and suffragette), his father had other plans for him. He learned all that his father could teach him. He made mozzarella, ricotta and basket cheese. He made burrata at Easter time. Lourdes’ grandfather could even make animal figurines – such as cows and pigs – from mozzarella. He supported his wife and four daughters through the depression and thrived through the ‘40s and ‘50s. In 1962, he wanted to retire. By that time, all of his daughters had married and none of his sons-in-law wanted the business. In the end, he sold the business to John Amato, today’s current owner.
John began working for Lourdes’ grandfather at age 15 in 1950. He was the stock clerk and delivery boy. By 1965, John was the owner of Fiore’s House of Quality, hand-making mozzarella in the same tradition that was passed on for at least two generations.
When Lourdes decided to start making mozzarella, she contacted John and asked if he would show her what her grandfather taught him. John gave her two days to observe the cheese-making process, so off she went to Hoboken, armed with a hundred questions and a video camera.
As Lourdes spent time with John, she learned more about a man she knew only as a child. One of her grandfather’s more famous customers was Frank Sinatra. He was literally a neighborhood kid from Hoboken, in the store a few times a week buying cheese and Italian “specialty” foods for his mother, Dolly. Lourdes’ grandmother and Dolly Sinatra were best of friends. Even after Joseph’s retirement and death, according to John Amato, Sinatra would send his plane to Newark from Palm Springs every couple of months to stock up on mozzarella.
As Lourdes wrapped up her time with John, she asked if she could use the name Fiore. Of course he said yes – “It’s because of your grandfather that I am able to support my family,” he told her.
And so was born Fiore di Nonno – “my grandfather’s flower” – Lourdes’ salute to her grandfather, Joe Fiore, that his family tradition continue and his amazing cheese be shared and enjoyed for years to come.