Here’s a look into seven (and a half—we’re in the middle of a few now) trips that have shaped our product offerings, food knowledge, and helped make us who we are.
Who: Danny Di Bruno, Co-Founder of Di Bruno Bros.
Where: The Land of the Swiss—Switzerland, where they were inspired by the countless, delicious cheeses that they sampled.
When: In 1965, Danny Di Bruno journeyed to Switzerland. Upon his return to 9th Street, the gourmet “House of Cheese” shop was born.
The Deliciousness: Danny was in awe of a giant 200-pound wheel of Gruyere cheese he came across in his Swiss travels. He began to see “food as theater,” and he knew he had to bring this experience back to his store. Sampling this cheesy giant was soon a reality at 9th Street. and was the start of the transformation into “The House of Cheese.” Following his return, Danny and Joe began importing a plethora of cheeses—Brie, Emmentaler, Gruyere, Havarti, plenty of Goudas, Fontina, Blue Cheeses and many more! This was the start of something big.
Who: Emilio Mignucci, Vice President of Culinary Pioneering
Where: The City of Lights—Paris, France, where Emilio explored the famous Rungis Market (a massive network of buildings with entire halls dedicated to specific types of food) and attended the Salon International de l’Agroalimentaire—the largest food innovation convention in the world!
When: In 2001, Emilio ventured to France to see a multitude of culinary delights.
The Deliciousness: As you can imagine, exploring Rungis Market is like going on the best food field trip of your life. After tasting what seems like tons of different cheeses and specialty products, Emilio personally selected the best of everything, from the region of the world that makes them best. The partnerships and relationships developed on trips like this is what allows Di Bruno Bros. to source the most amazing, highest quality items.
Who: Emilio Mignucci, Vice President of Culinary Pioneering
Where: The homeland—Italy. Emilio visited street festivals daily, and traveled across Italy with one of our international partners.
When: In 2008, he traveled to the Umbria region of Italy to attend the CIBUS International Food Exhibition.
The Deliciousness: Staying with the Bartolini family, Emilio experienced cultural differences firsthand—primarily the focus on food and family, the freshness of regional ingredients and just how important terroir (the complete environment, including soil, topography and climate) is. Even after years of being in the business, trips like this can still evolve your perspective on food and eating. For Emilio, “food as entertainment” had never been more true. One of the memorable parts of his trip was traveling the countryside with the Bartolini family and meeting Gianni Cora, a cheesemaker in the Piedmont region. The Cora family makes an incredible Robiola made from goat or sheep’s milk, hand-wrapped in chestnut, fig, cherry, walnut, vine and even cabbage leaves. This soft goat cheese is true craftsmanship and will wow you with its strong, fruity taste.
Who: Hunter F., Merchandising Specialist
Where: Chief Cheese Exporting Nation, Home of Windmills and the Wooden Shoe—Holland.
When: In 2011, Hunter ventured to a small island in Holland to visit the husband and wife team responsible for making the bright and brilliant cheese, Wilde Weide. Dutch for “wild meadow,” Wilde Weide is a farmhouse, homemade cheese that is bright with hints of caramel, whiskey and herbs.
The Deliciousness: What distinguishes Di Bruno Bros. from so many other retailers is our ability to tell a story. Lots of specialty retailers would be able to explain that Wilde Weide is a cow’s milk cheese from Holland. Only our associates can tell you about their experience on Zwanburgerpolder Island in Holland, listening to the cheesemaker’s wife, Roos, sing an aria to her cheeses as she sets them down to age. Relating those experiences to customers is how we build relationships. And going on trips like that help us to establish stronger bonds with our vendors and customers. The better we can represent the producer, the better we can do our job.
Who: Scott C., Procurement Manager
Where: Di Bruno’s homeland—Italy.
When: In 2012, International & Domestic Procurement Manager Scott C. traveled to Italy on a trade mission to scout out local Italian markets, shops and specialty food producers.
The Deliciousness: Looking to bring the taste of Italy back to Philly, Scott attended the Kuminda food festival outside Milan among other festivals countrywide, visited many Italian grocery stores, ate at incredible restaurants, and explored different mostardas—an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard-flavored syrup that we love on sandwiches, especially with mortadella. Scott works directly with our importers and make sure we have the highest quality products from around the world.
What differentiates Di Bruno Bros–and improves our customers’ experience–is that we take the time to go and visit our suppliers overseas. Visiting our producers adds transparency to the entire process of importing specialty foods and hopefully gives our customers the feeling of belonging to a truly special food lineage, with real people making really great food!
Who: Mark B., Assistant Store Team Leader
Where: Beautiful mountains in Northwest France.
When: In 2013, Mark visited Marcel Petite in the Jura Mountains in Northeast France to hand-select a wheel of cheese for Di Bruno Bros.
The Deliciousness: Mark sampled over 30 different wheels of Comté in the underground caves at Marcel Petite. His goal was to select a flavor profile that would then be delivered to our stores regularly. After many bites, the tough decision was made and he settled on the flavor profile that is delicate, floral, fruity and slightly lactic. This combination of flavors is known at Di Bruno’s as the Comté S’Mark Reserve, a must-try next time you visit us!
Who: Emilio Mignucci, Vice President of Culinary Pioneering and a group of soon-to-be Certified Professional Cheesemongers
Where: Cheese Country—Madison, WI.
When: In 2013, a group of cheesemongers, including Emilio Mignucci, VP of Culinary Pioneering, traveled to the 2013 ACS conference and competition.
The Deliciousness: Emilio serves on the board of the American Cheese Society and was a part of the team that wrote the Certified Cheese Professional Exam™ (also known as CCPE™). This exam is the only one of its kind and is the highest standard for cheese professionals. Passing the exam comes with the distinguished title of ACS Certified Cheese Professional™. Five of our cheesemongers received their ACS Certified Cheese Professional™ distinction in 2013 and three are scheduled to take the exam again this year. With over 150 questions that range from cheese production, regions and tastes, this exam separates the CCP from the rest.
The trips dedicated to culinary discovery will never end. We take our position as the city’s leading merchants of artisanal food seriously, which is why we have an entire division devoted to exploring the rapidly-expanding world of fine foods.
Emilio and our buyers just got back from a trip to Italy, but the planning never stops—a cheesemonger trip to the Netherlands is also in the works for later this month. In June, Emilio is venturing to the Swiss Alps to visit a Gruyere d’Alpage dairy—not before hiking a mountain to get there, of course—to see traditional production of Gruyere, Challerhocker, Raclette, Heublumen and Forsterkase cheeses.
Whether it’s Scott going to Italy to see our Parmigiano producers, Emilio visiting Switzerland to pick out cheeses specifically for our shops, or Dan Black going to Holland to continue the tradition of cheese education and selection started by the late Daphne Zepos, the Di Bruno Bros. team is always traveling. When our team comes back, they share stories, photos and videos with the rest, and in turn they pass those unique moments and experiences on to our customers.