Interesting Facts

Interesting Facts

Specialty Cheese

Mozzarella is mild, has a fresh, milky flavour and creamy texture that is great on pizza.

Ricotta made from whey, is smooth and has a great texture. It is an excellent choice for added flavour to pizza, pasta dishes, and even some desserts

Feta is a brined curd white cheese that crumbles with spinach, sundried tomatoes, and Kalamata olives for a taste of the Greek Isles.

Brie is soft, pale in colour with a slight greyish tinge under the ring. It comes out of the oven with a nice melt, and creamy texture, and is also great as a desert cheese.

Goat cheese is white and crumbly, but as intense in taste as feta. It works great on fruit pizza for a starter or dessert.

Parmesan vs. Romano Cheese

Named after Parma, Italy, the city it originated from, Parmesan is the most well-known of the hard cheese family. It has a sharp, nutty flavour that intensifies with age. In Italy, it is often served as a dessert with fresh figs, walnuts and sweet red wine. In America, parmesan is mainly used for grating on pasta, salads and pizza.

Parmesan can be purchased in two basic forms: fresh, and dehydrated or dried. The richest flavour comes from the fresh variety. Parmesan is light yellow and has a hard, granular texture. It is aged over 10 months. For smooth sauces, buy block parmesan or freshly grated 100% cheese. Parmesan can be used as a table cheese, in a shaker, shaved over salads and pastas or sprinkled on pizza.

Romano is also named for its area of origin, the countryside surrounding Rome. Romano is another hard, grating-type cheese used on pizzas and pastas. It has a creamy white appearance and sharp, piquant flavour. Italian Romano, named Pecorino, is made from ewe’s milk, but domestic versions are made from cow’s milk which produces a milder flavour. Like parmesan, Romano comes in both fresh and dehydrated form. Fresh Romano has a higher moisture and fat content than parmesan and is aged for five months longer.

Large wheels of Parmesan and Romano cheeses arrive at Maltese, and are cut into pieces or grated on site. Let us know what size a piece you need, and we’ll cut it for you.

Cooks looking to diversify flavour profiles in their pizzas and pasta dishes need look no farther than parmesan or Romano cheese. The question remains…parmesan or Romano? Which one is tastier and which one is best used on your pizza or pasta? Romano’s taste is stronger and it is saltier, making it a wonderful flavour-enhancing agent in soups, pasta dishes and pizza. Commonly paired with mozzarella, Romano gives pizza an extra punch. Not everyone enjoys the sharp, salty taste of Romano and may prefer a slightly milder parmesan. Whatever cheese you choose, your guests will definitely notice that there is something unique and more flavourful in your meals.


There is no other food that can rival the olive for its role in cultures throughout history. The olive tree has been revered by many cultures as sacred and immortal. Even today its branches symbolize peace and its oil signifies prosperity and purity. It is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world – being grown before the written language was invented.

Olives are a great choice for a low-calorie snack or recipe ingredient. They add flavour and variety with only seven calories per extra-large olive (California ripe olive). Most folks think olives have more calories than other foods. Recent research reveals that many consumers think black ripe olives have more than five times the number of calories than they actually have. The truth is olives are a great low-calorie food. This just goes to show that not everything that tastes good has too many calories.

Furthermore, olives are a great low fat alternative to traditional snacks. Not only are olives a low in fat food, but they are an excellent source of good fats that help lower bad cholesterol. The fatty acids in olives are highly mono-saturated. Olives are also a cholesterol-free food.

Today there are more than 200 olive varieties, each with a unique application that can add flavour and appeal to any dish. Some of the most popular cured olive types are:

Kalamata: Beautiful and dark, it’s intense flavour stands up to lamb and swordfish and completes a Greek salad.

Picholine: Creamy, nutty and chewy, this is the ideal choice for antipasto platters.

Nicoise: Nutty, fragrant and form, add this classic flavour to fish or serve as an aperitif.

Black Ripe: The American classic. This plump, mild favourite is perfect on pizzas and salads.

Green Ripe: Similar, but slightly more salty than the black ripe.

Sicilian: Crisp, crunchy and great with fish or pork.

Dry Greek: An excellent cooking olive that adds complexity to pastas, veal and tomato sauces.

Spanish: The ideal cooking olive is slightly lemony and sour, making it perfect for fried foods.

Cerignola: Large, fruity and buttery, this is a great olive to marinate and serve with a variety of appetizers.

At Maltese, our spiced olives are made at the store with the authentic preparations taught to us by Mrs. Mancuzo. A recipe straight from Italy.

Olive for Olive Oil

Olive oil, the flavourful oil used for cooking and salads throughout the world, is made by pressing tree-ripened olives. There are a wide variety of domestic and imported olive oils available to today’s consumer. All olive oils are graded according to their degree of acidity. The best are cold-pressed, a chemical-free process that involves only pressure and creates a naturally low level of acidity.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a cold-pressed oil, is considered the finest and fruitiest of the olive oils. “Extra Virgin” is the highest quality because it is produced with the first press of the fruit, has less than 1% acidity, and is judged to have ‘no defects’. Produced in limited quantities, Extra Virgin Olive Oil usually sells at a 15-30% premium to lesser grades depending pm the country of origin and quality.

Products simply labeled Olive Oil or Pure Olive Oil are a blend of refined oil (oil chemically treated to neutralize strong tastes) and virgin olive oils. It is lighter in colour and does not have the naturally fruity flavour of extra virgin olive oil. Pure oil is excellent for general cooking, especially sautéing, because the refining process raises the smoking point to about 438 degrees Fahrenheit.


When tasting olive oil, look for the following characteristics:

Bitterness: typical for olive oil obtained from green olives.

Fruitiness: the degree of fruitiness depends on the cultivar of the olives. The oil should have a pleasant taste of the olive fruit which testifies to the health and freshness of the olives.

Spiciness: although the degrees will vary depending on the olive cultivar, high quality olive oils should have diverse spicy tones.

Some olive oils compliment fresh salads and grilled fish, others make a perfect pairing with pastas, hearty soups and meats. Like wines, olive oils with different levels of intensity should be matched with specific types of dishes.


Prosciutto is an Italian dry cured ham that is typically sliced thin, and served uncooked. It is taken from the hind leg or thigh. The meat is first salted and left for about two months before it is then cleaned and placed in a well-ventilated area to dry. The drying process can take as long as two years depending on the climate.

The dry-cured ham is most often served as antipasto, either by itself, or as part of a larger assortment of meats and cheeses. But there are many other quick and easy ways to use prosciutto. Replace it in all your ham recipes. Crisp it and crumble on salads. Wrapping meat with prosciutto makes everything better! Use it next time around your pork roast, chicken breasts or halibut.

Maltese Grocery carries Canadian prosciutto, as well as prosciutto from Italy.


The next time you’re looking at an Italian food product, look for the DOP label. It’s a certification of high-quality foods from Italy, guaranteeing that what you’re eating is a local Italian delicacy and not an imitation.

DOP is short for “Denominazione di Origine Protetta” (literally “Protected Designation of Origin”). As the name suggests, this certification ensures that products are locally grown and packaged. Italian specialties get DOP recognition by following a strict set of guidelines: every step, from production to packaging, is regulated.

The DOP label makes a promise to the consumer: it’s a guarantee that the food was made by local farmers and artisans, using traditional methods. In fact, by law, only DOP products like balsamic vinegar can carry the word “traditional” on their labels, because they adhere to local traditions.

When you see a food labeled DOP, you know it is has been certified within an EU quality authentication system. Introduced by the European Union (EU) to protect food that comes from a particular geographic location, the DOP label ensures that where the food was grown, determines its quality to the consumer.

Of course, not all local Italian specialities are recognized as DOP. Look for the DOP label to ensure the product is DOP. For example, mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) is a DOP product. But only certain brands carry the seal. Other types of mozzarella di bufala, therefore, aren’t necessarily made in the traditional way, with the traditional ingredients; only the DOP varieties are.

These labels are a good thing. They protect farmers and certain food products from unfair competition by food that may carry the same name but are not produced, processed, and prepared in the same place or within a regulated system. In other words, the DOP certification ensures that only the foods with this label, that have been traditionally manufactured in that region, are legally entitled to use the region’s name in commerce.

Interestingly enough, the majority of DOP products come from Northern and Central Italy, especially the Emilia Romagna region that boasts 19 certified products.

The DOP label may bring a higher price tag with it. But it also promises the highest quality.

Here’s a list of some of our favourites that you can find at the store:

Mozzarella di bufala (Campania, Lazio): Considered to be creamier than mozzarella made from cow’s milk, buffalo mozzarella is a true Italian delicacy.

Balsamic vinegar (Emilia Romagna): DOP balsamic vinegar, from Modena and Reggio Emilia, has a thicker consistency and richer taste than most other vinegars on the market—and can be aged for over 12 years.

San Marzano tomatoes (Campania): Long in shape and bittersweet in taste, these tomatoes are harvested by hand. They’re later crushed, canned… and used to make dishes like pizza and pasta taste out of this world.

Olive oil (Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardia, Puglia, Sicily, Tuscany, Veneto): This staple has the largest number of DOP varieties of any Italian food specialty, and it comes from many different Italian regions. Some regions even have multiple DOP oils from different areas! These exquisite olive oils vary in taste, color and robustness. All, however, have a low acidity and are made of freshly-picked olives.

Parmigiano Reggiano (Emilia Romagna, Lombardia): Perfect plain, paired with fruit or grated on a plate of pasta, this hard and salty cheese is aged for a minimum of 16 months.

Prosciutto (Emilia Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Le Marche, Tuscany, Veneto): The many mouth-watering varieties of savory, smoked ham (Modena, Parma, Carpegna, Toscano, Veneto, San Daniele) vary in smokiness, age and colour.

It’s not all about protecting trademarks and advertising standards. The POD’s more lofty purpose is to sustain rural economies by promoting geographically-specific foods produced locally, as well as helping make European agricultural products competitive on the domestic and world markets through its quality, not quantity.

This is good for everyone because a rich and various gastronomic culture is one of Europe’s most important assets, as well as the fact that its beautiful rural landscapes are a ‘product’ of the farming techniques which have shaped its environment. If traditionally farmed products are undercut by lower-cost imitations, then the society, culture and environment which co-exists with them will also disappear.

We encourage you to enjoy DOP products and get the most authentic tastes of Italy.