Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano Cheese Dazzles In Dishes!

The Good: Melts well, Great flavor, Tastes delicious as a component in recipes!
The Bad: Comparatively expensive, Harder to use as an ingredient.
The Basics: Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano is one of the best premium cheeses to use in recipes to replace a sharp cheddar and on its own it has an intriguing flavor worth trying!

On my recent vacation with my wife to Minnesota, we passed through Wisconsin. For me, the Wisconsin leg of our trip was one I was looking forward to for a simple reason: Wisconsin is the home of Sartori, one of my new favorite cheese producers. I was psyched because after my review of the Sartori Merlot BellaVitano (that’s here, check it out!), because online representatives of Sartori had read the review and seemed pleased with it. I had hoped during my trip home through Wisconsin, I might be able to tour the Sartori plant. Two things prevented that from happening this time: 1. Not getting a response to my request when I requested a tour online and 2. Showing up at the Antigo Sartori production plant. As it turns out, the current Wisconsin cheese map only has the Antigo, WI Sartori facility (the headquarters for the company is in Plymouth, WI, not Antigo!) and so my hope to tour a Sartori dairy plant and shopping at a Sartori gift shop materialized instead as a somewhat brisk conversation with a Sartori employee and shopping for cheeses I did not have access to out of a small refrigerator unit at the front of the office space. One of the five cheeses I picked up from my in-person visit to Sartori was a block of Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese.

I love flavorful cheese and the Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese certainly lives up to that! Sold at their Antigo production plant for $5 for the 8 oz. package, this is not an inexpensive cheese, but it is a delicious one.


Sartori is a manufacturer of premium cheeses in Wisconsin. The intent of most Sartori cheeses is that they will be cheeses that hold their own as snacks that may be served to consumers in fancier settings. They specialize in intriguing cheeses that have different flavors infused into them, like merlot, espresso, chai and Black Pepper. Sartori cheeses come in blocks that are premeasured, at least for the Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese.

The Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese is as its name implies. This is a solid white cheese with actual black pepper embedded into the outer surface of the cheese. There is no pepper mixed throughout the cheese block, but the cheese seems to carry the black pepper flavor more than just on the outer edges. Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese in packaged in a simple plastic wrap and is hard enough to maintain its shape when cut open.

Ease Of Preparation

Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese is a cheese, so more often than not, it is used on its own or as an ingredient in a recipe. Preparation of the cheese is pretty simple; cut the plastic away and slice the cheese! Unfortunately, this is a cheese that has very variable workability. The first time I opened the packaged and sliced the Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese, it was very easy to work with, like a mild cheddar. My cheese plane easily sliced through the block repeatedly, including the black pepper-encrusted edge. However, the cheese had almost entirely different workability the very next day when I went to use it. Despite sealing up the Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese last night, when I used the cheese this morning for an egg dish, it reacted much more like an exceptionally hard cheese, like a Parmesan or Asiago. The Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese was suddenly so hard that it fractured and fall apart with almost every pass of the cheese plane. It was not easy to work with on its own, at least after it was opened and refrigerated once.

When the cheese is sliced, it melts beautifully with wonderful evenness and liquidity, making it an ideal ingredient to make flavorful omelets or to replace cheddar cheese in dishes like macaroni and cheese. It is delicious when melted into sandwiches, eggs or on hamburgers.


The Black Pepper BellaVitano smells quite a bit like an exceptionally sharp cheddar. Even as the Black Pepper BellaVitano nears room temperature, the aroma from the cheese itself dominates any hint of the black pepper that coats the outside of the cheese.

On its own, the Black Pepper BellaVitano is not as flavorful or sharp as the scent foreshadows. Instead, this is a mild flavor on the tongue until it turns slightly sour about three seconds after it hits the tongue. That sourness is cut by the black pepper on any and all pieces the pepper is on. On those slices or chunks, the cheese has a predictably robust and peppery flavor. The pepper flavor never develops into a sneeze-worthy level, as the BellaVitano cheese flavor seems to pull it back just as the pepper flavor’s dryness overwhelms the tongue. The combination of flavors transforms a potentially bland, slightly mild cheese into a full-flavored, energetic cheese that is bound to please.

Melted into or onto something like an omelet or a burger, the Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese melts incredibly well. When it is melted and hot it seems to lose almost all of its aroma. It does not, however, lose any of its flavor. In fact, when heated up, this cheese becomes the perfect complement to beef or sausage. Melted into an omelet with sausage, the Black Pepper BellaVitano draws out the flavor of the meat and accents it with a powerful, sharp cheese flavor analogous to a medium-sharp cheddar. In a similar way, I was impressed by how the Black Pepper BellaVitano was not overwhelmed by the flavor of a good hamburger I tried the cheese on. While the Black Pepper BellaVitano might have taken a little longer to melt than I would have preferred while working on a medium-rare burger, the cheese took a bland beef hamburger and made it into a flavorful main course that made the meat pop. Perhaps what was most impressive about the Black Pepper BellaVitano was that the cheese flavor overcame the usual muting flavor of the bread upon which the burger was placed; honestly, most cheeses get muted by bread or rolls – the Black Pepper BellaVitano did not. Instead, even with a seasoned burger on bread, the Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano was so flavorful that it dominated the flavor of the bread and complemented well the meat it was paired with.

On its own, the Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese leaves a slightly sour, slightly dry flavor in the mouth for about five minutes after it is consumed.


Sartori Cheeses are not intended to be all that one lives on. But for those who try, the Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese is not overly healthy, though their cheeses have decent ingredients. The black pepper does not seem to add anything of note to the cheese of nutritional value. A serving size is considered a one inch block (1 oz.). In that, there are 120 calories, 90 of which are from fat. This cheese has 25% of one's daily recommended saturated fat intake and 7% of the RDA of sodium. On the plus side, it does have 18% of the RDA of calcium and has seven grams of protein.

Obviously, Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese is a dairy product, so those who are lactose intolerant will have problems with it. This cheese is made primarily of BellaVitano cheese and coarse black pepper. That makes it all-natural.


As a cheese, Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese should be kept refrigerated. So long as that happens, it ought to stay fresh for several weeks. I am utterly unable to write about shelf-life as our 8 oz block was gone within twelve hours after being opened! So long as it is kept in an airtight, cold environment, it ought to remain fresh and supple. Our package bought just over a week ago had an expiration date of March 24, 2015.

Black Pepper BellaVitano is a cheese, so it is not going to stain or ruin anything unless it is ground into a fabric. Baring that, cleanup of nonporous surfaces is as easy as wiping them with a damp cloth. Even the crumbs of cheese and pepper are aromatic and get on other things, so this is a chese that is especially important to clean up after!


Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese is good, but it seems like one ought to be prepared to damn the serving size and find a way to use or consume the entire block when one first opens it! Otherwise, it becomes harder to work with, even if it is still entirely delicious!

For other cheese reviews, please check out my takes on:
North Country Cheese Garlic Dill Cheese Curds
Yancy’s Fancy Smoked Gouda With Bacon
Ostenborg Havarti Dill Cheese


For other cheese and meat reviews, please visit my Meat And Cheese Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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