From cow to consumer
Secaucus company makes a lotta mutz
by Adriana Rambay Fernández
Reporter staff writer
May 03, 2012 | 936 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HEAD CHEESES – Left to right: Mayor Michael Gonnelli, Product Manager Francisco Mendez, and Resident Cheese Maker Brian Civitello. Civitello is a “cheese technologist,” and is in charge of cheese quality, while Francisco Mendez ensures operations proceed smoothly.
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Since 1993, Victor Paparazzo has been making the “mutz.” His Secaucus company churns out 40,000 pounds of cheese per day and supplies pizzerias and stores from coast to coast.

Paparazzo opened his first manufacturing plant with his brother-in-law on 13th Street in Union City and made various types of specialty cheeses. He eventually sold the company, “Cognati Cheese,” to a French fine cheese company. In 2006, he became the sole shareholder of his existing operations and opened a 43,000-square-foot facility in Secaucus that specialized in solely making fresh mozzarella. He named the company Toscana after the Tuscany region in Italy.

From milky start to smooth finish

“I like the fact that we make something,” said Paparazzo last week. He said he was drawn to making cheese not so much out of an interest in cheese itself but more for his interest in manufacturing and making a product from start to finish. “Few people are into manufacturing.”

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“You can make cheese as well by machine as by hand.” – Victor Paparazzo

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Born and raised in Jersey City, Paparazzo now lives in Rutherford, which is minutes from the Toscana Cheese Company facility in Secaucus. His grandparents arrived from Italy and settled in Jersey City in a predominantly Jewish and Polish neighborhood. Paparazzo recalls that his family was one of the only ones that celebrated Christmas. Today Paparazzo looks to serve the Jewish community with kosher products and is in conversations with rabbis about raising his kosher certification.

Family atmosphere

The company runs production five days per week, 24 hours per day and employs 78 to 82 people. Paparazzo said that many of his employees have been a part of the company since the beginning, including Product Manager Francisco Mendez, who worked his way up the ranks and oversees floor operations.

“We are the epitome of a family company,” said Paparazzo. “Production decisions are made collectively.”

Trucks bring milk at 3 a.m.

Trucks arrive at 3 a.m. with milk from dairy farms across New Jersey and the Tri-State area. Up to six trucks a day drop off 6,000 gallons of milk each. The milk is tested for antibiotics and is rejected if any trace is found. “We process 350,000 pounds of milk a day,” said Paparazzo.

The facility is under strict sanitation regulations and adheres to FDA and USDA standards. A Control lab, which serves as the “central nervous system,” tests all products for any food-borne pathogens, from the milk to the finished product.

“You can make cheese as well by machine as by hand,” said Paparazzo.

Giving back to community

Toscana Cheese Company plans to contribute 250-500 pounds of cheese biweekly to the Secaucus Food Pantry, which gives food to needy people.

The company will also sponsor a summer concert and make fresh mozzarella available. They will also participate in the local farmer’s market.

Children from local classrooms will also have the opportunity to take a field trip and tour the facility to learn how cheese is made from start to finish.

Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at afernandez@hudsonreporter.com.

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