An elm park master cheesemaker chucked the hectic restaurant owner’s life to make food more slowly, teach passionately, and devote time to family
By Jennifer Vikse • Photos By Marc Estrella
Giuseppe “Joe Mozz” Badalamenti literally grew up in the kitchen. As a boy, he started from the bottom basics, but eventually found himself almost in a dreamscape—working alongside world renowned chefs.
With those years of experience and talent, he opened La Galleria restaurant in Great Kills. While the restaurant was a popular spot (complete with piano bar) for many years, the owner decided to switch gears in 1999.
He met his wife, Michele, while at La Galleria (she was a frequent customer).
“My wife was going to school for hospitality management, I was in need of a manager, and things really seemed to work out,” Badalamenti recalled. “I made her bow tie pasta until she agreed to a date. The cheesy thing is, I had her engagement ring made to resemble a piece of bow tie pasta.”
Once married, the couple decided to focus on their family. That’s when Joe Mozz was born.
The restaurant business was too demanding and Badalamenti decided that selling homemade cheeses and foods to restaurants wholesale was more his speed.
“The mozzarella business is different, of course, yet offers me the same culinary creativity I live for, and allows me to spend more time with my family, which is my true love,” he said. “Family is precious and in the food business, often times, you can lose focus.”
Trading in the restaurant glamour for the back end was a no-brainer, but as business boomed, it was soon time to expand, with Michele heading up the off-site catering.
“Luckily, I love working alongside my wife,” Badalamenti said with a smile.
Until 2009, Joe Mozz remained a wholesaler. But then the couple decided to open to the public, serving lunch and Italian specialties. In addition to the wholesale and gourmet catering arms of the business, Badalementi added classes on mozzarella making two years ago.
“[We added the classes] after doing several island fundraisers,” he said. “The mozzarella demo really peaked interest, and that’s how it all began.”
Conducted in his Port Richmond headquarters, the classes take place, not surprisingly, in the “cheese room,” where students get to enjoy a complimentary glass of wine and “a little nosh” with Italian music in the background.
The instruction is done by Joe Mozz himself.
“The response has been tremendous,” he said, adding that joining forces with Vino D Vino Wine School has brought the classes to another level. “Each class has a personality of its own. These classes really amaze and excite the students.” In fact, 90 percent of the students partake in the mozzarella-making. “We have had several come to our shop and buy the curd so they can impress family and friends at home.”
Sessions are limited to ten students and are offered on Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The classes are $65 per person, and each student takes home a ball of mozzarella as a point of pride…or at least a conversation piece.
Joe Mozz Gourmet Shop
1021 Post Ave. / 718.390.8660 / joemozz.com