Truffle cheese from Italy
There's great cheese to be found up and down Arthur Avenue and 187th Street in the Bronx at Joe's, Teitel's and Casa della Mozzarella, but the the one I love best is Calandra's. It's all the way at the end of Arthur Avenue, close to where the old mansion called Belle Mont once stood.
The man at the helm is Diego and his shop is my favorite because he and his staff always have smiles on their faces and are eager to share their knowledge and passion for everything they sell. You can ask questions, try something new and even though the shop is tiny, never feel rushed. By late Saturday afternoon there's usually a long line out the front door, evidence that everything inside is worth the wait.
People who have been loyal to Calandra's for generations come for the freshly made ricotta. The older Italian ladies you'll meet there early in the morning would never make their cheesecakes with anything else. Mozzarella is also made in-house along with burrata and lots of house cured olives and peppers.
Because the prices at Calandra's are excellent, I always make sure to get a wedge of Prima Donna cheese, a blend of parmigiano and gouda that's fabulous for snacking on alongside nuts and an arugula salad. And when I feel like treating myself to something extra special, I purchase the Moliterno cheese, a pecorino cheese from Sardinia that is infused with ribbons of black truffles. Just tell Diego you want the truffle cheese.
In late fall when fresh truffles arrive from Italy, Italian restaurants frequently offer a plate of pasta with shaved truffles for between $50 and $100. Want my advice? Save yourself the expense and buy a wedge of truffle cheese from Calandara's for $25 a pound. (It's so intense that a quarter of a pound is really all you need.) Prepare simple bowl of fresh pasta, coat with 1 tablespoon of butter and then grate 3 tablespoons of the truffle cheese over the top and mix it in well. Pour yourself a glass of wine and ascend to truffle heaven.
INSIDER'S TIP: The cheese hanging from the metal bar above the counter in red netting and wax is aged mozzarella or caciocavallo cheese. If you're traveling, this is the best cheese to bring back home with you as it won't need to be refrigerated until you cut open the wax casing. This is excellent melting cheese. If you have a backyard grill, watch the video below for inspiration.