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Fair Lawn Lifer Keeps Dying Art Alive At Bella Mozzarella

Grisafe wraps his cheese before refrigeration. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Mike Grisafe readies the water for mozzarella-making in his Fair Lawn kitchen. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Ta-da! Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine

FAIR LAWN, N.J. — Fair Lawn lifer Mike Grisafe has become tired of the taste of mozzarella.

He only samples it to make sure that it's coming out the way it should — salty and chewy, but not like gum.

Making it, however, is something that will never bore him.

"Handmade mozzarella is a dying art," said Grisafe while pushing a hunk of curd through through a guitara and into a bowl of 160-degree water in the Bella Mozzarella kitchen on Parmelee Avenue.

Grisafe had his first taste of the cheese-production industry in the 1980's, when he began helping out at Scheps Cheese in Paterson. Ten years later, he began a part-time with Montena Taranto in Ridgefield.

The now-expert cheese-maker opened Bella's in the basement of the Fair Lawn Athletic Club in 2000, and quit his job with MT five years ago to take on his business venture full-time.

"Some of my customers have gotten cheese from Brooklyn, the Bronx and Hoboken — all the populars," he said. "I've been in business for so long that I know all of the places they talk about, and I take that as a compliment."

Grisafe can produce mozzarella — and other traditional, Italian products — anytime, anywhere.

"If people ask for it, I bring it," said Grisafe, who sets up his equipment at the farmer's markets and family functions.

He's currently trying to get a booth at the Ramsey Farmer's Market.

Grisafe recommends eating Bella's mozzarella when it's "still warm from the water with a nice, red tomato, roasted pepper, basil and olive oil.

"If Jersey tomatoes were in season all year, business would be booming all year."

Call Mike Grisafe at (201) 232-7914 or (201) 796-0559 to place an order.

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