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Italy's 'Armani Of Mozzarella' Accused Of Having Mafia Links

Giuseppe Mandara (in white shirt, with cigar), and officers from the Anti-Mafia unit of the Italian police on Tuesday.
Italian Police
AFP/Getty Images
Giuseppe Mandara (in white shirt, with cigar), and officers from the Anti-Mafia unit of the Italian police on Tuesday.

This story's been out there for a day or two, but it's too tasty to ignore. So here's a slice:

"Italy's biggest buffalo mozzarella maker, Giuseppe Mandara, has been arrested on charges he had close ties to the mafia. Mandara, 56 — who once dubbed himself the 'Armani of Mozzarella' — was arrested with three associates near Naples, reports said." (Global Post)

As Time's NewsFeed says:

"Things have turned sour for the cheese magnate: according to the AFP, the police claim that Mandara and his group have links to clans of the Camorra mafia, based around Naples. Police Chief Maurizio Vallone alleges that when the [Mandara] group faced economic troubles in the early 1980s, it accepted a bailout from the La Torre clan of hundreds of millions of euros."

There's more. The BBC says Mandara Group also "allegedly mixed cow's milk with more expensive buffalo milk that is the key ingredient in the trademark soft white cheese, and passed off batches of provolone cheese as a more expensive kind."

The company's cheese, adds the BBC, "is sold across the world." And it helpfully reminds us that mozzarella is "a key ingredient in some classic Italian recipes such as caprese — a simple tomato, basil and mozzarella salad — and the trademark Neapolitan pizza."

By the way, the investigation that led to Mandara's arrest was called "Operation Buffalo."

Agence France Presse adds that the Alival Group, of which Mandara's company is a part, "declined to comment on the investigation. Alival Group's website said Mandara was a third-generation family business and the country's top producer of buffalo mozzarella."

(H/T to NPR.org's Wright Bryan.)

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott
Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.