PALMA CEIA— Mozzarella di bufala, ricotta, gorgo, smoked scamorza, burrata, toscano . . . Antonio Casamento will make and sell 15 kinds of cheese when he opens Mozzarella Bar in mid November. His tiny shop — a couple of barstools, a bistro table and a refrigerator case — sits at the end of a row of storefronts, hidden behind another row of small storefronts, at the corner of Henderson Boulevard and Neptune Avenue.
"Imported from Tampa," says Casamento of his all-natural, hormone-and preservative-free cheeses made from his own herd in Thonotosassa. To accompany his buffalo, goat and sheep's milk cheeses, Casamento will also offer truffles, jams and jellies as well as cheesemaking classes.
Born in Palermo, Italy, trained in Florence, Casamento has worked in the hospitality industry worldwide. He spent the last 17 years in Tampa and previously owned Rigoletto Tuscan Grill on Gandy Boulevard.
Casamento, who lives in Ballast Point, started with eight Mediterranean water buffalo four years ago. "Now we're up to 30, all named and cherished like family," he said. Also at the farm: bees, chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs and hundreds of just-planted grapevines he hopes will produce his first batch of wine next year. Visitors are welcome at the farm the last Sunday of the month, he said.
Casamento plans to continue to sell his cheeses at Hyde Park and St. Petersburg community markets, "because I am a loyal guy."
Mozzarella Bar, 4004 Neptune Ave., will be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. Visit bufalinacheese.com or call (813) 473-2105.
Handicrafts from Africa help empower creators
Jewelry, accessories and home decor items, handcrafted by South African women and sold in South Tampa, will help grandmothers caring for HIV/AIDS orphans, said Sita Monti, owner of LivAfrika on S MacDill Avenue.
After years of leading church missions to Africa for Hyde Park United Methodist, "a hobby became an obsession" and Monti began buying baskets, bowls, beadwork and keepsakes through fair trade co-ops to sell at community markets and home shows.
Customers' purchases empower economic independence for women struggling in Africa, leading her to open the small shop on Oct. 20 to showcase "a wide range of artisan goods made of everything from sisal to potato chip bags," priced from $6 to $200.
"The women are paid a fair wage for that part of the world, and work in safe conditions that respect their Zulu culture," said Monti.
LivAfrika, 3403 S MacDill Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Visit livafrika.com or call (813) 837-5400.
Mexican restaurant serves 'truly-authentic' tastes
Mexico City-native Miguel Espinosa says the "truly authentic" family recipes he prepares at Jalapeno Mexican Grill "are nothing like Tex-Mex."
"Mexico City quesadillas are very different than any other quesadillas," he says, and tacos, enchiladas and fajitas are more flavorful at the N Armenia Avenue restaurant.
House specialities include: mole poblano, carnitas, chiles rellenos and ensalada de nopales (cactus salad), plus flan, fried ice cream and Plantains Foster. "Many dishes can easily become vegetarian," he adds.
Three kinds of salsa are made fresh daily — tomatillo, chipotle and chile de arbol — as are corn tortillas and red and white sangria.
Some days, he likes to get creative, "like Mexican sushi, and I'm working on a faster and cheaper lunch menu," said Espinosa, who previously owned Jalapeno in Tampa Palms.
Jalapeno Mexican Grill, 4820 N Armenia Ave., is open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Visit jalapenotampa.com or call (813) 877-7500.
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