12 Old School Di Bruno Bros. Food Finds

In honor of Di Bruno Bros.’ 75th Anniversary, we’re celebrating 12 old school food finds that put us on Philadelphia’s culinary map and still remain savory staples of our business today. From cheeses and meats to olive oil and pepper shooters, these Italian and Di Bruno Bros. classics have had our mouths watering since the days of founders Danny and Joe Di Bruno.

This month, we’re taking it back—all the way back to 1939 to be precise.


1. NEW YORK CHEDDAR:  The classic cheese that can do you no wrong.

A staple for any and every household, we’ve been house-aging our New York Cheddar for decades.  The same 40-pound block of cheddar that once lasted us six months, now won’t last us more than three weeks.

Always bold and extra sharp, it’s great for parties served alongside fresh grapes, grated into mashed potatoes, or melted atop a burger. From northern New York state, this is the quintessential American Cheddar, and is best paired with American Pale Ale and an Eagles game on Sunday afternoon.

2. SALAMI:  Sweet, salty or spicy–we have a salami for everyone’s taste buds.

We’ve been under the spell of salami since day one—those salty, savory and sometimes spicy slices of cured meat have us completely hooked.  Our founders Danny and Joe used to make and cure their own salami for their family and friends.  In honor of our 75th Anniversary, we’re bringing their original recipes to the masses with our new line of classic, artisan salamis.  Crafted from the most carefully-selected cuts of pork and spices and using the old-world technique of slow air-curing for at least 45 days, Danny and Joe wouldn’t be able to stop themselves from snacking on and sharing all five of these cuts. Now we’re excited to share them with you!

3. VINEGAR:  Turning empty jugs of wine into the mother of all vinegars.

It all started with “the mother” Danny and Joe brought with them from Italy in the late 1930s.  You see, added to wine, mother is a form of cellulose and acetic acid, which ferments the liquid into vinegar.  Back in the day when things were a little different, Danny and Joe made their own wine.  They’d then take a second pressing of the wine and ferment it in 55-gallon whiskey barrels to make homemade red wine vinegar.  Four months later, you’d have the perfect salad dressing or marinade to slather on some French fries.  The red wine vinegar was one of those things where if you didn’t know about it… you didn’t know about it.  Back then you just brought your own empty wine bottles and glass jugs and set them on the counter.  The guys knew what to do next.

Seventy-five years and three whiskey barrels later, the same base mother is used to produce 2,800 small-batch bottles a year.

In addition, we created three distinct balsamic vinegars with our Italian partners—a Bronze, Silver, and Gold, each proudly bearing the stamp of approval from the Consorzio Aceto Balsamico di Modena in Italy.

4. OLIVE OIL OVER THE YEARS:  From importing a treasure to producing our very own.

When Danny and Joe first opened in 1939, they sold olive oils by the jug, bulk pasta, and other grocery staples the community needed. As they grew, imported olive oil became one of their treasures.  When the third-generation had a few years under their belt, one of their first initiatives was to partner with the Bartolini family to produce a Tuscan-style olive oil.  Using hand-picked olives from the foothills of Umbria, Italy, our Fruttatto Extra Virgin Olive Oil’s (EVOO) natural pulp and unfiltered style is robust with a taste of fresh herbs—perfect for hearty pieces of Italian bread.

We then created our Classico, a well-balanced EVOO that’s the same as what we’d have in our own pantry at home, perfect for enhancing all types of dishes.

In 2013, we partnered with Manfredi Barberi, one of the world’s most respected olive oil producers.  The Sicilian olive oil, produced in Palermo, provides a unique flavor profile with notes of freshly cut grass and toasted hazelnuts with a buttery, fruity finish. Think Mediterranean flavors and dishes for this oil–it’s perfect for dipping bread or for drizzling over salad, pizza and pasta.

5. GRATED ITALIAN CHEESES:  Perfectly grated cheeses with a touch of nostalgia.

Quintessentially Italian, we’ve literally been selling boatloads of grated Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano forever.  We’ve gone through dozens of small grating machines since ‘39 but still have our old faithful grater that Danny and Joe used from the beginning.  With a few updated parts here and there, the original grater is still in use and lives in our production kitchen at our 9th Street location. Taking half a wheel of cheese at a time, perfectly fresh grated cheese is produced daily and bagged by the pound. We like to think the history of the machine adds a sprinkle of nostalgic charm in there as well.

6. PROSCIUTTO:  From Canada to America then straight from the motherland, we’ve perfected the art of slicing this salty snack over the decades.

Salt. Pork. Time.  Prosciutto has been made the same way since the beginning of time, with small variations here and there.  With Italian prosciutto not yet legal in the United States, Danny and Joe imported Prosciutto from a Canadian family-owned company, Daniele, early on. In the mid-70s, they started selling domestically-made prosciutto from Citterio in the Poconos. Once Italian-imported prosciutto became legal in the mid-90s, we started slicing Italian-certified Prosciutto di Parma for our customers.  We now stock all three Italian-certified prosciuttos available in the US, myriad domestic artisan varieties and enough cured meat options to fill more than two 12-foot cases.

7. STUFFED OLIVES:  A family tradition stuffed full of love and countless culinary treats.

It started with a garlic-stuffed olive, then a blue cheese, a sundried tomato and a hot pepper.  Months later, there were seven different stuffed olives and more en route.  The byproduct of downtime, the Di Bruno Bros. “Aunts” filled their empty hours dreaming up antipasto creations.  Aunt Edith and Aunt Angie always kept themselves busy – whether it be stuffing olives, pepper shooters, or their famous-within-certain-circles “Prosciutto Rolls,” thinly sliced prosciutto, layered with house-aged provolone and a roasted red pepper, sold by the pound.

These projects soon became legend and the aunts had to dedicate more and more time to their production. Our 9th Street shop stuffs their own olives, and if you’re lucky you can still find prosciutto rolls by the pound.

8. PEPPER SHOOTERS:  A classic Italian delicacy with a Di Bruno family touch.

Another great work of Aunt Angie and Aunt Edith, our pepper shooters were handcrafted in our 9th Street shop for decades.  With pounds of prosciutto flying out the door, the prosciutto ends would be leftover and in need of a good home.  The Aunts would trim and slice the ends, wrap them around a cube of provolone, stuff that inside a hauled-out pepper, and marinate them in vinegar in a five-gallon tub.  It was work — delicious, delicious work.

When demand for these stuffed beauties became too great, we partnered with an Italian family business in New Jersey to start producing these for us – our recipe of course.

9. FRESH MOZZARELLA:  Whether classic, smoked, marinated or stuffed, mozzarella making is in our genes.

Mozzarella making is in our genes.  We start out with 45-pound boxes of mozzarella curd, and hand-stretch mozzarella balls day in and day out.  We do it all—from marinated balls, braids, rolls, to smoked mozzarella, and marinated mozzarella with olive oil, red pepper, parsley, and garlic.  Find all these traditional styles in our shops or at DiBruno.com.

As if fresh mozzarella wasn’t enough, we dabble in the cream-filled versions, and aged and smoked varieties as well with Pasta Filata (cheeses that stretch) like Scamorza and Mantecha. Scamorza here in Philly is considered a drier mozzarella.  It sits in a solution of saltwater brine for an hour so it forms the shell on the outside and is often smoked. Mantecha is pear-shaped mozzarella molded around a lump of butter, sometimes known as burrini, is a lip-smacking treat. Burrini, instead, is molded around a quarter-pound of butter. Spread that on bread, add a little salt and pepper and you’re good to go!

Then came the burrata.  Gushy, mind-blowing burrata–a product we began creating in 2001 (to our knowledge, we were the first to bring this product to the US).  We roll pieces of mozzarella and fill with butter-like cream and curd mixture. The burrata are then tied with crisp, green leek leaves in order to showcase their freshness. When the leaf is green, you know it’s a newly-made burrata. When the leek starts to turn brown, you know you waited too long to enjoy.  We make plain and truffled burrata, and encourage our customers to drizzle with sea salt and olive oil for a lush bite of Italian tradition.

10. PARMIGIANO REGGIANO:  All hail the King of Cheese! Simple yet complex, it remains a #1 best-seller.

When Danny and Joe built out the selection of imported products at Di Bruno Bros., Parmigiano Reggiano topped the list of must-haves. Take some Parmigiano and drizzle aged balsamic for a perfect post-meal snack as they do in Italy.  It is the King of Cheese, after all.

Since we first opened our doors in 1939, our house Parmigiano Reggiano has been our number one seller. It is as versatile as it is full-flavored, revered as it is complex, and as delicious as it is affordable. The only difficulty for Parmigiano Reggiano is overcoming the perception of commodity. Many people consider it to be strictly a grating cheese—a pantry item—but those people miss out on the simple pleasure of snacking on Parmigiano as part of a cheese plate.

We import a house Parmigiano Reggiano of exceptional quality as well as an extra special version from famed producer Giorgio Cravero.   A personal friend and partner, Giorgio works directly with just a few small, farmstead cheesemakers and ages his wheels for 24+ months.  Aging through two summers, his Parmigiano is a flavor experience — with layers of fruitiness that delivers a longer, sharper flavor.

Even after thousands of wheels have rolled through our doors, the simple complexity of Parmigiano still gets us every time.

11. PROVOLONE:  Any way you slice it, provolone is our wheelhouse.

You could say… provolone is our wheelhouse.  There are as many different styles and shapes of provolone as there are regions in Italy, but if they’re not aged properly, they won’t acquire much intensity or flavor. There are three types we stand by:

Our flagship domestic provolone: Originally hailing from Southern Italy, this USA-made version is still sharp & creamy and house-aged to pronounce the sweet, oily tanginess that is sharp, slightly smoky and full-flavored. Aged Provolone can serve a variety of purposes: slice the cheese and melt it on your favorite sandwiches. It’s especially good on roast pork or roast beef; serve it alongside your favorite antipasto. We recommend Prosciutto di Parma, olives, and roasted peppers; or simply snack on it by itself and appreciate its simple but satisfying flavors.

Auricchio Provolone – Stravecchio:  Three-year aged and sharp, this black label provolone is moist and delicious – a mild Italian classic that goes well with everything.  It’s our best-selling provolone for a reason. This is the rare Black Label from Auricchio aged for 36 months and even longer in the special aging rooms in our stores.

Grande Provolone: Aged for a year and a half in-house, these small balls of Provolone are perfect to take on a long road trip, to give as a housewarming present, or hang in your kitchen for decoration (a tasty decoration!).

12. CHEESE SPREADS:  Hand-scooping original recipes since way back when.

Originally hand-scooped from ice cream containers inside the 9th Street store, these cheese spreads were first created in Danny Di Bruno’s home kitchen. His family, especially his grandchildren, loved to judge his homemade cheese spreads.

Over the years, the Di Bruno family made over ten flavors, from Pesto, Port Wine, and Alouette to Gorgonzola and Dijon Cheddar. We have sold over seven million pounds of cheese spreads, and they are now currently available across the United States. Whenever Danny’s grandchildren go into supermarkets and see their grandfather’s face, it’s been known to bring them to happy tears.

Have a favorite?  We’d love to hear about it!  Stop by one of our shops to try one of these Old School food finds, and taste a little piece of Di Bruno Bros. history.