#whyIlovePhilly: An Ode to Di Bruno Bros
When I lived in Brooklyn, one of my favorite ways to start the weekend was exploring Italian butcher shops and bakeries. My boyfriend and I love cooking and are obsessed with tasting new foods as much as possible. We were lucky and ambitious enough to take our bikes near and far in search of the best bread, cheeses and meats. So when I decided to move to Philadelphia, one of my neighborhood requirements was to be within walking distance of an Italian community.
Enter: Di Bruno Bros.
A third generation-owned culinary enterprise where I spend all of my free time and money. You can find me on any given day at these five locations:
Italian Market on 9th Street
Rittenhouse Square on Chestnut Street
The Market at Comcast Center
Ardmore Farmer’s Market in the suburbs
The Franklin Market and its Bottle Shop
Di Bruno Bros. is an Italian family-owned specialty shop that makes you feel welcomed from the minute you step into any of their stores. Truly, the most Italian thing about them is their customer service where you feel like you're in nonna's kitchen being told you must try everything she's cooking. I love bringing visitors to the Italian Market location near our rowhouse because that’s where the legacy started. The tiny hallway-like shop is filled nook to cranny with cheeses, oils, cured meats, sauces and every other pairing item you could think of. The cheesemongers don’t hesitate to offer you a bite as you stare at your surroundings, wondering how this "House of Cheese" could host so many delicious treats in one place. The whole experience is intoxicating. If you aren’t salivating within the first few seconds of being inside, something’s wrong.
The Ultimate Philly Snack
Di Bruno's is the best place to discover specialty ingredient pairings and be inspired to recreate new snacks at home. Riding high off the Super Bowl victory earlier this year, I challenged Di Bruno's to create the ultimate Philadelphia amuse-bouche: a single, bite-sized appetizer that perfectly summed up our city. Hunter Fike, Di Bruno Bros.' Merchandising Manager, stepped up to the challenge with his riff on the Philadelphia cheesesteak: a locally-sourced snack featuring pretzel shortbread, Winnimere cheese, Larchmont Bresaola smoked beef and truffle mustard.
This version of the Philly cheesesteak is local at its core, but delivers a flavor spectrum: every ingredient is provided by Pennsylvania-area producers who are part of the Di Bruno's network, meaning you can find their unique products at any one of the five Di Bruno's locations. But don't get it twisted, Philly is not just a cheesesteak town and this "locals only" bite proves just that. Take it from Fike himself:
Di Bruno Bros.' Hunter Fike shows us how to recreate the ultimate cheesesteak bite at home
Philly is a melting pot of cultures and flavors: Salty (pretzel), sweet (shortbread), smoky (Bresaola), nutty and fatty (cheese), spicy (mustard) earthy (truffle) are all present here, and create harmony instead of conflict.
This bite is built upon Lost Bread’s Pretzel Shortbread. Lost bread is as Philly as it gets, using local grains, oils and any other ingredients wherever possible, while still paying homage to traditional bread-making techniques. The Pretzel Shortbread is a hybrid that speaks both to another iconic Philly food (the pretzel) and to our city’s pioneering spirit.
Editor's tasting notes: I loved the combination of sweet and salty in the pretzel shortbread, plus the extra doughiness that really seals the ingredients below it in place.
The “whiz” of this bite is Jasper Hill’s Winnimere, a seasonal, washed-rind, bark-bound beauty that that tastes of peanuts and bacon. At peak ripeness (pictured), it is as goopy as Cheez Whiz, and easily spreadable. The cheese is delicious, and the name starts with “Win-“ (Go Eagles!).
Editor's tasting notes: This cheese really does resemble the texture of the almost neon orange goopy whiz we're used to: creamy, but more decadent, and drips just like whiz!
The “steak” element is Larchmont’s Bresaola, a cured and smoked beef that plays perfectly against Winnimere. It’s intense and beefy, like most Eagle fans.
Editor's tasting notes: Beware: this slab of beef is a little tough to bite through, but worth the challenge.
Topping off the bite is KL Keller’s Truffle Mustard. Don’t put mustard on your cheesesteaks, kids. At the same time, don’t eat your soft pretzels without mustard. Truffle might be gilding the lily a bit, but it does add another layer of flavor.
Editor's tasting notes: I loved the heat this mustard gives to take this cheesesteak to another level. It's an unexpected, but very welcomed punch to complete the bite.
Lunch at Franklin Market
For solo lunch hangs, I used to sneak away to the Franklin Market location where La Colombe coffee is readily available and new lunch combos are to be discovered. The Franklin Market is setup like a grocery store which is dangerous because though I may stop in to grab a meal to go, I end up walking away with more snacks and drinks than I truly need. Lunch here means I probably ordered a grilled cheese and tomato soup, or found a new pasta plate to try, or walked away with a baguette in hand. All are less than $20 which is a win for me. I’m known to send – and receive — the Abbondanza Gift Box to loved ones on special occasions, too.
Happy Hour at the Bottle Shop
Pennsylvania’s strict alcohol laws make it difficult for this former New Yorker who’s used to walking into a bodega or corner wine shop on the regular. So when The Bottle Shop opened around the corner from my old office, you can bet I was front and center on opening night.
I love spending happy hour at Di Bruno’s Bottle Shop. Beer and wine are typically a few bucks during this time so I drag coworkers with me to split a plate of snacks while we sip and lament over the craziness that was work that day. ‘Culture Club’ is the best though: it’s a class Di Bruno's offers on cheese pairings where you learn to recreate your own bites at home. Jeff, cheese and beer and wine expert at The Bottle Shop teaches you when to aim for contrasting flavors (wine) versus complimentary flavors (beer). It is delicious and I always walk away learning something new (like did you know Philly is a top dog in craft beer?!) and unexpectedly loving a new ingredient (Kleine Schweine Pepperettes!).
I love Di Bruno’s. I love grocery shopping after work at Rittenhouse. I love asking the cheesemongers about cooking ideas. I love seeing what new items they have on stock. I love taking my friends and family to their shops. I love buying treats to take home. It has become one of my happy places that made me fall in love with Philadelphia. So thanks Di Bruno Bros. for all the endless delicious bites!
Scroll through the gallery below and try not to drool.
Image Titles and Descriptions
‘Beer Meets Cheese’ Temple of Awesomeness and curated cheese flight from Di Bruno Bros. praised by Anthony Bourdain
The Bottle Shop by Di Bruno Bros. is run by a triple-certified Sommelier, Cicerone, and Cheese Professional offering weekly beer flights and specialty cheese pairings
The Bottle Shop at The Franklin (834 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia)
‘The Art of Affinage - Aging Cheese’ bite from Di Bruno Bros. bathed in Victory (Raw Cow, PA) washed in Victory Storm King beer
‘Coffee & Cheese’ bite from Di Bruno Bros.: La Colombe Draft Latte served with Nabbabo (Goat, Italy) on Cinnamon Torta with Crushed Piedras de lunas
‘Soup Dumpling Inspiration’ bite from Di Bruno Bros.: Sternschnuppe (Raw Cow, Germany) with Larchmont Pâté de Campagne, Hot Suhey Peppers and Sesame Caioroli