I don’t usually shop at truck stops. You are more likely to find me at Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Vittorio or the organic farmer’s market in Testaccio. But all that changed a couple of years ago when Lufra’ Mozzarella di Bufala opened its doors at the gas station where we usually stop on the way up to Todi, from Rome.

Anyone with a home in Umbria knows which gas station I am talking about. Take the A1 autostrada north from Rome, and then exit at Orte. Just after you’ve paid your toll, and take a right on to the access road, the gas station is about 250 meters on your right, before you hit the E45.

A few years ago the owners of this pit stop completely redid it, adding several low-slung, cheaply- made commercial buildings they hoped to rent out to stores. Who in their right mind would ever decide to open a business here?

Some very smart Neapolitans, that’s who. While Umbria may be known for black truffles, cured pork and olive oil, good mozzarella remains hard to find. The really great stuff comes from a small area in Campania, just south of Naples. (Needless to say, most mozzarella sold in grocery stores is trash.)

Where many people would see the ugly road side building off the highway as something to be avoided, The De-Tora brothers (Luca and Francesco, hence the name of the store: Lufra’) realized that they could make the drive up from Campania in under two hours, hop off the highway,and deliver the freshest mozzarella in Umbria, as fresh as any you would get in central Naples.

The store is tiny, but is packed with other goodies from Campania. The De-Tora family bakery supplies crusty loaves of bread (Umbrian bread is notoriously tasteless, so locals snap this up) as well as sfogliatelle, pastiera and the best almond-studded taralli I’ve ever had.

On the cheese front there is buffalo milk mozzarella, available as small bocconcini, or larger half-kilo orbs. (Note: The mozzarella alone is worth taking a detour for.) Must-buys also include: smoked scamorza, sheep’s milk ricotta, aged pecorino and incredibly good caciocavallo. And the newest and bestest addition: same-day burrata from Putignano. I’m not sure who is making the run to Puglia for this, but they should get an award.

Other things I never leave the store without buying: tuna-stuffed mini red peppers, Faella pasta, hot and spicy salami, not so spicy salami and the addictive pancetta-and-cheese-studded round loaves of bread.

Some rules of the road: since the mozzarella arrives daily, it usually isn’t there until about 10:30-11:00. If you are coming later in the day, you may want to call ahead and reserve. Ditto for the bread or anything else fresh.

Area di Servizio UMBRIA

Ex Strada Statale n. 204

Km. 32,536

Orte (VT)

Store: 0761 402 351

Luca: 333 308 4862

Francesco: 339 429 1340