New York corporate lawyer turned Texas rancher and creamery owner Phil Giglio waxes poetic when he describes the milk produced by his beloved herd of water buffalo, using words like “porcelain,” “rich” and “creamy.” In fact, the name of Giglio’s recently launched gelato shop is OroBianco, which is Italian for “white gold.” The name was directly inspired by the milk, with a tongue-in-cheek nod to Texas’ history as a producer of black gold.

While crude oil is native to the Texas landscape, water buffalo are new to the scene. Giglio’s herd of approximately 400 water buffalos have their origins in the Mediterranean, southeast Asia and South America. The burly beasts, with their distinctive curlicue horns, were shipped down to Texas from upstate New York, and currently reside at a ranch in the rolling hills of Floresville. According to Giglio, it is the only known commercial water buffalo dairy ranch in the entire Lone Star State.

“The herd has been enjoying the heat of south Texas for several years,” Giglio says. “They do well in this climate, and our non-lactating animals have a large pond in which they cool off. The mud baths they give themselves suggest they’re enjoying their new home.”

Giglio notes that the animals are entirely grass fed, and are never administered growth hormones, or antibiotics.

Giglio, at left, shares a laugh with a former ranch hand.

Giglio took over the original herd of 200 water buffalo without knowing how to milk an animal, much less make cheese, gelato, or operate a creamery. Inspired by the rich water buffalo milk delicacies he enjoyed during visits to Italy, Giglio’s foray into ranching was entirely a leap of faith.

“The first time we ever tried to milk one of our animals back in 2018 we hadn’t built our dairy yet,” Giglio reminisces. “We managed to lasso one of the girls and encouraged her — you don’t compel a 2200-pound animal with horns to do anything they don’t want to do — to walk near a fence so we could tie off the rope.

“We milked her by hand into a bucket. After about a half hour of work we had maybe a cup of milk. I remember thinking, ‘Golly, this is going to be a journey.’ ”

OroBianco owner Phil Giglio bonds with the herd at his ranch in Floresville.

Today, Giglio’s fully operational creamery produces mouth-watering butter, cheeses and gourmet gelato, all of which are sold at OroBianco’s retail store in Blanco. The one-of-a-kind chef developed gelato flavors OroBianco offers are created with local, seasonal produce. OroBianco relies almost exclusively on Texas family farms for its ingredients, including blackberries, plums and strawberries from Jenschke Orchards, peaches from Studebaker Farms and pastured duck eggs from Roam Ranch.

“We grow our own basil and mint that we use in our gelato, and we source our mesquite, peanuts and pecans from Texas growers,” Giglio shares, revealing that new gelato flavors are in the works for the fall.

“I’m excited for Texas figs with our buffalo milk ricotta and Hill Country honey. We’re also planning to release a version of buttered pecan gelato using our buffalo milk butter and Hill Country pecans.”

OroBianco will keep its doors open throughout the fall and winter, offering rich hot chocolate made with single origin chocolate created completely from scratch. “We import raw cacao beans and roast, crack, winnow and refine them all at the creamery,” Giglio tells

OroBianco’s charming retail location in Blanco, TX

In addition to warm beverages such as hot chocolate and espresso, OroBianco also produces pork salumi, buffalo salami and duck and lamb prosciutto via its sister company Suli Salumi Co. (Sun Salami). The pastured hogs used to create the salumi are fed with a diet of waste products from the creamery, including skimmed milk, fruit, cacao and nuts. Meanwhile, get your steak knives ready. . . Giglio reveals that Suli Salumi will soon add fresh water buffalo cuts to its offerings including ribeyes and coulottes.

All the products will be available at OroBianco’s store in Blanco, and a soon to be opened second store in Fredericksburg. Shipping options are also on the horizon.

“We milked her by hand into a bucket. After about a half hour of work we had maybe a cup of milk. I remember thinking, ‘Golly, this is going to be a journey.’ ”

– Phil Giglio

This former New York lawyer is learning it’s good to be a Texas farmer.

“I’m in awe of the natural beauty of the Hill Country, and love Texas culture and ideals,” Giglio says. “There’s a level of respect and kindness amongst Texans and non-Texans who happen to find themselves here that is unrivaled, and I feel incredibly blessed to call Texas home.

“I wear the boots, hats and Wrangler shirts now, but my friends often remind me that I still sound like a Yankee. I’m hoping one day I’ll blend in.”

Giglio captured this image of one of his pastured hogs enjoying water buffalo milk at the ranch