Bufarella sandwich shop, known for fresh mozzarella and burrata, permanently closes in Oakland Park

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Feb 02, 2022 5:53 AM

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Bufarella, the corner Italian cheese and sandwich shop that tantalized locals with daily fresh mozzarella, burrata and handhelds on crunchy ciabattina bread, has shut down.

Bufarella, the corner Italian cheese and sandwich shop that tantalized locals with daily fresh mozzarella, burrata and handhelds on crunchy ciabattina bread, has shut down. (Michael Mayo / Sun Sentinel)

Bufarella, the corner Italian cheese and sandwich shop that tantalized locals with daily fresh mozzarella, burrata and handhelds on crunchy ciabattina bread, has permanently closed.

The 1,200-square-foot strip-mall space at 1682 E. Oakland Park Blvd. sold its last cold cuts and whole-milk cheese on Jan. 6 after three-and-a-half years in business, co-owner Filippo Trecca told the Sun Sentinel on Tuesday. Over the past three weeks, Bufarella Genuine Italian Gourmet’s logo – an Italian water buffalo – has been covered by a white tarpaulin and the name of its replacement has appeared on the windows: La Bottega dei Sapori, or “The Shop of Flavors” in Italian.

Closing Bufarella was the last thing Trecca wanted, but months of bankruptcy proceedings, a risky handshake deal and a lease dispute with a new investor doomed the sandwich shop, he says. That investor, a Coral Gables-based general contractor named Antoine Melhem, is listed as the new owner of La Bottega dei Sapori, corporate records say.

“Me and my wife are suffering very much about what happened to Bufarella,” says Trecca, 70. “We are old and we could not keep the business open because we are tired.”

Bufarella debuted in August 2018 by a quartet of longtime friends, including Franco Godina, a veteran restaurateur who once owned Caffe Milano on South Beach. But a series of partner disputes left Trecca and his wife, Helen, 65, by themselves to run the shop for the past year. A slow trickle of customers and a bankruptcy filing in January 2021 forced the couple to lay off its master cheesemaker, Domenico “Mimmo” Marchitelli, who made burrata, mozzarella and stracciatella di bufala (or Italian buffalo milk cheese) for customers in-house daily.

Bufarella Genuine Italian Gourmet served fresh panini sandwiches on crusty Gran Forno bread, along with housemade burrata and mozzarella and Italian cold cuts.

Bufarella Genuine Italian Gourmet served fresh panini sandwiches on crusty Gran Forno bread, along with housemade burrata and mozzarella and Italian cold cuts. (Courtesy / Bufarella Genuine Italian Gourmet)

“We couldn’t afford Domenico, and so I learned how to make mozzarella and salads, while Helen did all the platters,” Trecca says. “We couldn’t do the burrata anymore, though, so we had to outsource it.”

Trecca says Bufarella’s lease expired on Dec. 31. He’s contemplating a move to Fort Lauderdale’s Galt Ocean Mile neighborhood to reopen Bufarella with help from a new investor, but he’s still uncertain.

“I’m still stuck with a debt, so I don’t know what to do now,” he says.

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