Since 1939, Di Bruno Bros. Cheesemongers have been “celebrating great food and great people” by providing Philadelphia residents and visitors with exceptional products, knowledge and service. That’s seventy-four years of great mongers striving daily to develop their techniques, expand on their knowledge and work as a team in an effort to offer our customers the best products and service available, anywhere.
We are tremendously proud of our current roster of Cheesemongers and Cheesemonger Apprentices. This is the first in a new series of blog posts where we introduce you to the new crop of Cheesemongers who are in training and pursuing a career with us.
We recently chatted with Apprentice Anna Szapiro about her love of cheese and aspiration as a future cheesemonger.
What inspired you to pursue becoming a cheesemonger?
Like a lot of families, mine really valued dinnertime as an opportunity for the four of us to unwind and spend time together. I can’t remember the exact moment, but at some point a grocery store with a decent cheese department opened in the neighborhood. It revolutionized our world—now every meal would start out with a little bit of cheese and crostini. I fell in love! Combined with the fact that I really prefer hands-on, artisanal work, becoming a cheesemonger seemed like the perfect job.
What has been your favorite part of the job so far?
Two things, without a doubt: getting to try and learn about all of the awesome cheeses, and then leading people through the cheese selection and getting them excited about new tastes.
Name your top 3-5 cheeses? What are your favorite pairings?
So hard to choose! I love Gruyere and similar alpine cheeses, like L’etivaz and Comte. I’m also a sucker for tangy goat cheeses, like a ripe Monte Enebro from Spain. And finally, I’ve been really into the super funky washed-rind Epoisses cheese Trou du Crou. Now that it’s summer I like to pair with a light, floral honey and some ripe summer berries.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not cheesemongering?
I actually have a couple other jobs, so a lot of my time is spent working at other establishments. I’m also an actor and I paint, so I always try to have an art-related project in the works.
What are your favorite foods/cuisines?
Impossible question! It definitely depends on my mood. I seriously love everything except for sea urchin.
What do you like best about Philly/Philly’s food scene?
There are so many delicious, affordable options here in Philly! And the scene seems to revolve around smaller, independent food options in a really nice way. I always prefer the independent, neighborhood-centered restaurant or coffee shop to the big chains.
What advice would you give to someone who may be considering becoming a cheesemonger?
If you like using your hands and are ok trying about ten cheeses a day for two weeks straight, go for it!
Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years down the road?
Lounging in my yellow velvet chair by a window in some small apartment in Philly or New York, reading a script and wolfing down some super ripe washed-rind cheese and ten pounds of blueberries.
Last meal on Earth.
If the apocalypse were to happen right now I would probably request my mom’s baked mac ‘n cheese, with a warm chocolate macadamia cookie the size of my face.
Our thanks to Anna for taking the time to answer these questions. If you ever find yourself at the Rittenhouse store, feel free to say hello and test her knowledge of cheese.