“Family means everything. Family is life.”
– Giovanna Delle Donne
The story of
After the Second World War Italy was economically and socially devastated. Nonno Celestino Delle Donne (current Zandam owner and Managing Director Mauro’s grandfather) was forced to look abroad in an effort to seek a better life for himself and his family.
Many of his family and friends were captured in North Africa and brought to the Cape as prisoners of war (POWs). After the war, the POW’s returned to Italy with stories of a beautiful country with many opportunities. Nonno Celestino couldn’t help but see the possibility of a new life for his young family. He convinced his family to emigrate to South Africa, and in a few short years, the Delle Donne and Monaco families (Mauro’s aunt Carmela and her husband, Salvatore) were settled on a small farm in the heart of the Cape Winelands. The area was called Zandam and the name became part of the families’ story and their legacy.
Famous for their poultry originally, the Delle Donne family has always made their own cheese, guided by Nonna Giovanna (Celestino’s wife), as was traditional for Italian subsistence farmers.
Later on, Matteo (Mauro’s father), would go to Cape Town to deliver fresh eggs to the local Italian, Greek and Portuguese immigrant communities. It soon became evident that there was a great demand for cheese.
No one else in South Africa was making authentic Italian cheese and the Delle Donne products gave these communities a welcome taste of home. Word soon spread about the new cheese on the block and Zandam Italian Cheese’s customer base grew. In fact, the cheese became so sought after, that the family decided to focus exclusively on the cheesery from the late 1970s onwards.
Crafting cheese runs deep in the family. The processes and recipes that are still used today have been handed down from mother, to daughter in law, to son.
Mauro Delle Donne, current owner and managing director of Zandam Italian Cheese, is a cheesemaker at heart. Having spent many years in the cheesery, learning from his mother Iolanda, Mauro still regularly travels to Italy to ensure that Zandam cheese remains authentically Italian in every sense.
Zandam Italian cheese is also proudly South African. A strong South African influence inspired the family cheesemaking through the loving and skilful mentorship of family friend Ken Borcherds, a pioneer in the cheese industry. Through the years our recipes have been perfected for the South African palate.
Zandam Italian Cheese has played an important role in establishing a love for authentic Italian cuisine in South Africa.
“Cheesemaking is similar to making wine. The theory is basic but there’s a finer art to it”
– Mauro Delle Donne
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