OroBianco acquired its first dairy water buffalo, with Italian genetics, from established farms in Texarkana and New Jersey. Calves are separated from their mothers at one week old and bottle-fed milk replacer. “Hand-rearing the calves also makes for gentler, safer animals,” Peeler says.

The 40 cows are milked once a day in the 17-stall milking parlor, and each animal yields approximately 5 liters of rich, creamy milk, which will in turn make 5 pounds of cheese.

“I’m throwing my goats under the bus,” Thompson says, “but buffalo milk is like going from a Volkswagen to a Cadillac.”

Peeler Farms’ herd of water buffalo

Peeler admits he’s still learning about water buffalo. “They’re highly intelligent with very individual personalities and certain behavior traits that differ from cattle,” Peeler says. “For example, they bunch together when startled, instead of scattering the way cows do.” Cattle can be picky eaters, but water buffalo are willing to ingest poor quality roughage “while still producing high quality milk,” Peeler says.

For a farmstead dairy operation to be fully sustainable, it requires a purpose for retired cows and castrated calves, or steers. OroBianco’s salumi program has made it possible for the company’s products to come full circle. “Because Phil’s background isn’t in ranching, my job has been to morph his vision into reality, so that we can produce a truly local food product,” Peeler says.

A man in a tan cowboy hat and long-sheelve shirt looks off at the distance

Phil Giglio founded OroBianco in Blanco.

Peeler’s ranch has its own USDA-certified packing plant, where the steers are slaughtered between 18 and 20 months of age. The meat is then sent to The Salumeria in Austin, where owners Anthony Pedonesi and Gerardo Garcia turn it into private label products like coriander-spiced pork and water buffalo cacciatore, a flavorful “hunter’s style” sausage; water buffalo-fig salami; and wagyu and water buffalo bresaola (air-dried, salted meat). “We absolutely love the buffalo,” Pedonesi says. “It’s a beautiful, lean red meat, which is why we mix it with pork. But we’re also big fans of OroBianco and Phil’s vision. His ability to bring ideas to life is inspiring.”

While the mozzarella was in development, Giglio decided to focus on gelato for the shop’s opening. “I was making gelato all night and practicing law by day,” he says. All of the components, like nut butters and marshmallows, are made in-house for seasonal specialties like Fredericksburg peach, strawberry-stracciatella, Rocky Road, and safflower-blood orange. “On hot days, there’s a line out the door,” he says.

Thompson oversees all things cheese. He’s relocating his goat and sheep dairy from the Rio Grande Valley to Blanco. OroBianco’s four signature buffalo offerings are the ricotta-like Blanco Fresco; Bufaletta, a creamy feta marinated in Texas Hill Country olive oil; Ladybird, a young bloomy-rind style inspired by Lombardy’s robiola; and Bluebonnet, a mild, fudgy blue. The latter has been a hit—a “gateway blue,” as Thompson calls it—with hints of earth and pepper. It pairs beautifully with jam and southern Italian red wines like Campania’s Aglianico, Thompson says.

Thompson also makes seasons like buffalo scamorza, which in southern Italy is made with cow’s milk and smoked using straw. He collaborated with OroBianco’s retail manager and former pitmaster Dan Wright, who smokes the dense orbs of cheese over mesquite. “We’re trying to pull from southern Italy aspects that make sense in Texas,” Giglio says.

The newest addition to OroBianco’s lineup is a coffee bar located in the shop, where customers can request buffalo instead of cow’s milk. A stand-out is the thick, ultra-rich drinking chocolate. The single-origin chocolate, which variously comes from Indonesia, Madagascar, and Vietnam, is also used in exquisite chocolate bars made in-house—the cacao beans are roasted, pulverized, and combined with dried buffalo milk.

Two retail shops will open later this year, one in Stonewall and one in Fredericksburg. The latter features a 13-seat salumi bar so customers can have an in-depth experience with the food. That experience “fosters an understanding of the true cost of agriculture and the care that goes into every step of this business,” Giglio says. “Seeing an objectively crazy idea like OroBianco come to fruition—the reception has been better than I could ever have anticipated.”


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