Food 4 Thought – Issue #11 – Ottanta al Tartufo

Celebrating 80 Years the Best Way We Know

If any two people personify the American Dream, it’s Danny and Joe Di Bruno. The brothers – our founders – migrated from Abruzzo, Italy, with an incomplete elementary school education. They registered at Ellis Island before making their way to South Philly to stay with extended family already in America. They were regulars at Palumbo’s, a philanthropic institution that taught English as a second language and helped Italian immigrants find work. After saving enough wages, they purchased a tiny property at 930 South 9th Street, in an area already bustling with Italian retailers and customers.

They had modest aspirations: make a living for themselves, and enable future generations to have an even more prosperous life. The year was 1939, and it’s hard to imagine that Danny and Joe could have envisioned what Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese would blossom into eighty years later. And to celebrate 80 years of being welcomed into our customers’ hearts and stomachs, we wanted to share a handful of exclusive products, now available in our stores and on  Earlier this year, we’ve introduced a special edition of incredibly flavorful salami made by Ari Miller at 1732 meats. We’ve also partnered with Naomi Mobed at Le Bon Magot to introduce a deliciously unique Carrot Conserve. But we’ve been saving our exclusive cheese for last, and boy, is it worth the wait!

Is it really a celebration if truffles aren’t involved?

Say hello to Ottanta al Tartufo. Like the melting pot that lured Danny and Joe to America, Ottanta pulls from many points of origin. It’s a Welsh cheddar style, layered with black Italian truffles, made on a small farm in Vermont, and sold exclusively in Philadelphia. It carries with it more buzz than any cheese we’ve ever introduced.

The base cheese is called Landaff, which is produced by Deb Erb, who heads an all-female team of cheese makers on her farm in the foothills of the White Mountains. They studied cheese making with Chris Duckett, who at the time was the sole producer of true, traditional Caerphilly, a style sometimes referred to as Welsh Cheddar. But despite its origins, Landaff is uniquely New English. Pasture-raised holsteins provide a rich, grassy milk, that in turn yields a cheese bursting with buttermilk and yogurt and citruses.

In defense of “flavor-added.”

It is upon this vibrant palate that earthy truffles are layered. At Di Bruno Bros., we’re not the biggest proponents of “cheese with stuff in it.” Even with truffles, we’re selective. If you taste a truffle cheese and all you taste is truffles, it’s almost like cheating. Of course that’s going to taste good, but does it really express any skill on behalf of the cheese maker? Anybody could “just add truffles.”

Nay, a real truffle cheese is highly nuanced, with garlicky mushroom flavors serving to balance what is already present in the cheese. Imagine a flavor profile that includes bright lemon zest, sour buttermilk, a saison-like barnyard whiff, and aromatic truffles. That’s what you have here, a single bite that tantalizes the tongue, migrating across the palate with ease. Ottanta al Tartufo offers such a delicious tasting experience, you’ll remember savoring this cheese for a very long time!

And just like that, *poof*, it was gone.

Our first batch landed last week, with two ensuing batches arriving in November and December. My sincere advice would be to not delay. The one wheel we’ve been able to taste was met with such enthusiasm by our mongers that we tripled our initial projections. When cheese mongers get that psyched over a cheese, it tends not to last long.

Beyond locking yourself in the closet with it and devouring the whole thing in one sitting, here are a couple other suggestions:

1) Use a cheese plane or carrot peeler to shave over slices of apples or fresh grapes for an easy appetizer.

2) Pop a bottle of Saison Dupont, my favorite beer to pair with anything truffle.

3) Follow the advice of our wine Maven, Sande, who suggests Nero d’Avola or Gavi. Or, an Italian Pet Nat, with “some bubbles for the base and enough residual sweetness not to get whacked by the truffle.”

4) Shred a tiny amount (about a 1-to-4 ratio) with Fontina and use as a base for a stellar mac and cheese.

Check out previous issues of Food 4 Thought:




Pitchfork Cheddar




Hunter is a Di Bruno lifer. For as long as he can remember, his mom brought him into the cramped, aromatic Italian Market location as a weekly ritual. Before graduating high school, he was working behind the counter, slicing prosciutto, and making the famed cheese spreads in twenty pound batches.

He now serves as head cheese monger, and he has had the distinct pleasure of traveling the world with Emilio, honing his palate over countless dinners, trainings, and trade shows.

In Food 4 Thought, Hunter’s mission is to share our favorite discoveries while addressing the impact they have beyond the culinary world. We believe that the best foods have a story to tell. They’re crafted with consciousness; they honor the past with an eye towards the future. These are the products we’re most proud to have on our shelves, and the producers we’re most passionate about supporting.

Please comment on the blog. Come talk to a monger. Cook for friends and family. Come join the conversation!