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Jun 17, 2010 12:43 PM

Antonelli's Cheese Shop

I am visiting Austin for the first time. And I am visiting one of the Grand Dames of Austin food society, Ms. Jane King. Meeting me at the airport with her adopted daughter, Nataly, Jane suggested we stop at Central Market for dinner supplies. Jane started the Foodie Program at Central Market and is one of the more knowledgeable people I know when it comes to all things yummy.

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop was a stop that Jane mentioned she wanted to hit before heading to Central Market. It is a new cheese shop that she had not yet been to and was curious about. We arrived in a little neighborhood beset with culinary bits, earmarked by a giant fork statue at the end of the parking lot. There is a gelato shop, a butchery, and more. Upon our arrival, Jane was thrilled to see an old Central Market cohort, Kelly, behind the counter.

Over the next half-hour or so, Kelly led us through a wide range of tasting a variety of exceptional artisinal cheeses. From Landaff, a New Hampsire semi-firm cheese akin to the Welsh Caerphilly to Ascutney Mountain, a firm Vermont raw milk cheese with a sweet, almond-like flavor. Besides cheese, we brought home with us some Finocchiona and Sopresseta Piccante, both dry-cured salamis.

There was some discussion about whether or not Austin could support a small cheese shop and it was more than gratifying to see that in the half-hour we were there — on a Wednesday, no less! — a line was forming and all three clerks were busy. Kelly and the other two behind the counter were all very informative and helpful. Their selection of cheeses is complemented with meats, olives, and other gourmet condiments. With my investigations of Austin just beginning, this was a great first stop!

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Central Market
4477 S Lamar Blvd Ste 100, Austin, TX 78745

Antonelli's Cheese Shop
4220 Duval Street, Austin, TX

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  1. This is one of my new favorite places in town. I have been going to Antonelli's since it opened almost once a week. As a matter of fact i need to run by tomorrow to pick up the Burrata and La Tur they are holding for me for the weekend. Great place and John and Kendall really know there stuff.

    1. I agree.
      Some of the staff are less knowledgable than owners about their cheese selection, which is a bummer, but this will smooth out over time. Austin needs this shop; please do frequent.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ricodanles

        Wife and I stopped in last weekend to browse. Great place. Ended up with a few awesome things to bring home. Really great locally owned shop.

      2. Went there today based on the comments herein and due to the fact that I really like cheese but can't eat much of it because of the Ko-lester-ol. The place was hoppin' and the wait staff was very pleasant and energetic. Their cheese selection was lots of stuff I like, and I don't pretend to be a cheese expert. I think they have it made and it wouldn't surprise me to see expansion in the very near future. Two things I wish they would do. One, when you buy a cheese, make you a copy of the little information card on each cheese, and secondly, maybe have some small individual sized plates of a few cheese, preselected on the basis of some scheme, don't know quite what, and have a deal with Dolce Vita for you to take your cheese their and get a drink with it, if you choose. Speaking of I went in there and had coffee. Haven't been in the area for years. I get a wierd feeling with all the young modern hip looking people, plus the cougars also. Feel like a pair of brown shoes in a world of tuxedos, as per the very late George Gobel.

        1. I went to Antonelli's for the first time yesterday, and it was great. I grew up with old-school cheese shops in my 'hood (spent my allowance on Camembert and a baguette in 7th grade in SF at the 6th Ave Cheese Shop, RIP....took it to junior high for lunch with a little thermos of pilfered red wine from my dad's jug....), and although I frequent CM and WF, it was a thrill to walk into a neighborhood cheese store...wish it was MY neighborhood, but I will make it a regular stop, regardless

          The cheese is indeed impressive, as is their generosity with samples. Honestly, if you are planning to eat and/or serve some cheese, PLEASE go here and be led to a delicious, unique mix....its not that CM and WF wont' help you, its that having the attention of a passionate shop owner or one of their few passionate employees is a completely different I hope I can have here in Austin forever more.

          But what blew me away, and I mean it blew me away, was their selection of artisan salumi. Ever since CM stopped carrying the full array of Molinari (which isn't exactly artisan, but it is better than vacuum packed slices of Columbus, which is better than Boars Head, which is better than none) I have been bringing home salumi from my travels and ordering online. Now, I will just see what john and kendall have to offer across town. Yesterday, I bought 2 ounces each of the following:

          La Quercia prosciutto - I had read about it, I have entered contests to try and win some...ordering online is out of my price range for treats, and I haven't seen it in a deli case in my travels. Got some there....John Antonelli said it was "magnificent" and he wasn't kidding. Organic too, and expertly sliced. I'm doling it out to myself half a slice at a time.

          Creminelli salame tartuffo - this was a revelation - small dried salame chubs flavored with truflle. Absolutely amazing. I mean, roll your eyes back in your head and moan in public amazing. John says he's the only guy who sells less than a whole sausage of this - I got about 1/4 of a link for about $5.00. Gone...long gone. I checked out the Creminelli web site and wow - I hope they continue to stock an array of these products - I want to try them all, without spending $60 plus shipping in one shot!

          Salumeria Biellese - got the sweet coppa and hot sopressata. These were both excellent - the coppa has nice marbling and is much larger than I have come to expect. The sopressata is wonderful, spicy, meaty, complex and yummy.

          Now the bad news...I read the piece in the Chronicle about our local salumi guys, and was anxious to try Salt and Time's wares. Alas, the lonzino tasted devoid of any salt, was very dry, and had some weird overriding flavor I can't pinpoint - like cinnamon or allspice - no real meat flavor, which is why I love aged cured meats. The genoa salami, I'm sorry to say, was downright awful....a pasty, mealy consistency that has nothing to do with any genoa salami I have ever had before.

          The only Kocurek product they had was mustard...didn't try it, but based on the rillettes and bacon I have gotten at the farmer's market, I wasn't planning to try anything unless it came highly recommended. When placed in a case alongside the others, it is clear that our own local salumi offerings have a long way to go. I hope they do improve, I truly do, but for now, it is amazing to have a place that doesn't mind freshly slicing 2oz packages of some of the best artisan salumi made in the US right now ...almost too much to wish that they would carry Armandino Batali's mole salame and lamb prosciutto...I am thrilled with this place, and hope the crowds continue and grow!

          Viva Antonellis!

          Antonelli's Cheese Shop
          4220 Duval Street, Austin, TX

          13 Replies
          1. re: reinadetostones

            Haven't been in a while, but the few times I have gone, it has been great. The most amazing thing to me (aside from awesome cheese, salumi, and barrie's bread) is that no matter how busy, they do not rush you and take as much time as needed with each customer.

            EDIT: Wanted to add that they usually sponsor a free cheese tasting every Monday or so at the Draughthouse, paired with a tasty beer. Draughthouse says what it is on twitter. Cheese and beer, how can you go wrong?

            1. re: reinadetostones

              Antonelli's really is a gem.

              And that La Quercia prosciutto is great, isn't it? If you ever get the chance, La Quercia does some rather limited, acord-fed cured pork products as well. While the acorn version isn't up there with Joselito Gran Reserva or even the Fermin products, it's the best domestic ham I've had. Not easy to find, though. (Central Market is carrying a very good Spanish ham at the moment... Mangalica, which I believe is being brought in by d'Artagnan. Not cheap at $100+/lb, but very good, and a little goes a long way.)

              Perhaps my favorite item in Antonelli's meat case is the Biellese bresaola. A phenomenal product, great texture, and amazing depth of flavor. As good as the sweet coppa is, this might be even better. Highly recommended.

              Would love to see the Armandino Batali stuff as well. His guanciale is great, too. (As is the guanciale from Biellese. Unfortunately, I'm not as big a fan of the Niman Ranch version, which Antonelli's sometimes has. A bit salty and one-dimensional. On rare days, you can find the Biellese version at Central Market.)

              I implore you to give Salt and Time another chance, though. They're making some very good stuff. Very 'small batch,' so to speak, so I think there might be a bit of product variation at times, but I've had some truly excellent salami from them. (Very good pancetta, as well. And their mortadella hot dogs are ridiculous. Worth a visit to the HOPE market on Sundays.) Funny you mention Armandino Batali, as the consistency of the Salt and Time Genoa reminds me a bit of Salumi's salami. A bit softer than most. (I've come across that texture occasionally on the mole salami as well.)

              Central Market
              4477 S Lamar Blvd Ste 100, Austin, TX 78745

              Antonelli's Cheese Shop
              4220 Duval Street, Austin, TX

              1. re: Steven Dilley

                I have had pata negra / acorn-fed pork in Barcelona, where my terrible Spanish led to a sort of panic so I couldn't determine its origins....the man definitely told me he cut it, and it was amazing. I get the pre-cut Fermin jamon iberico from La Tienda and I love it. I will check out the Mangalica....fresh cut is always better for me!

                After just making love to the last of the Biellese sweet coppa (and hot sopressata) I am determined to try every one of their products I can get my hands on, and will put the bresaola at the very top of my list - thanks for that!

                LOVE Armandino's guanciale...the only other I have had in the house to play with is Boccalone, and I was just not impressed. I will seek Biellese guanciale to the point of harassing the deli staff at CM!

                I will absolutely take your advice and give Salt and Time another chance. I agree, when things are truly artisan, there must be wiggle room. You know, I have had Salumi's salami, thought it a bit soft, but it was granite compared to the S&T genoa. I have only had the pleasure of having Armandino's mole salami once, and the texture was firm and the slices were smooth. But, I will continue to seek out S&T products, because of course my wish is that Austin has excellent salumi I can purchase easily without import costs and shipping charges.

                Finally, once I finish this batch of fatty, salty, meaty goodness, I will swim for two weeks and then go for that mortadella hot dog. Thanks for all the pointers!

                1. re: reinadetostones

                  Things can get lost in that CM deli counter... sometimes they'll have the guanciale, but you might have to search and point it out yourself. Biellese's pancetta is very good, too, though they tend to steer folks toward the Molinari version (less fatty). (I've never seen either of these at the south location.)

                  If you check out Boccalone's stuff again, the nduja is fun. Pretty spicy but worth checking out.

                  1. re: Steven Dilley

                    i've been wanting to try out nduja for a while now, but shied away from the boccalone shipping costs for lil' ole me.

                    maybe someone will carry it locally some day soon.

                    1. re: Steven Dilley

                      Yes, I like the nduja very much. Spread it on crackers, scrambled it with eggs, made grilled cheese with it...yummy. dinaofdoom - next time I'm in SF I will post and see if you want me to bring you back some! Those shipping charges keep me from much I crave....

                      1. re: reinadetostones

                        aw, you're so sweet, reina.
                        some of my co-workers reside in the SF bay area so i've tried bribing them to interoffice me some.
                        it hasn't worked so far.

                  2. re: Steven Dilley

                    Hi - just wanted to report that I made it out to Hope market and while my rugrat was participating in a public art installation/creation, I was ordering the S&T grilled sausage - this was a beer sausage, light in complexion, deep in flavor. It was small in circumference, like a hot dog, and with some outrageous mustard and an honest, real roll for a bun, it was something I will return for. Wish I had gotten to try a mortadella hot dog, but this was awesome.

                    Sadly, the Toscano salame I bought is just not good. Also very small in circumference, when I am used to a Toscano that is larger than a standard salame. Grainy and dry - it crumbles and doesn't hold the slice after a bite, when I am used to tearing off a hunk with my incisors and gazing at the remaining hunk. Flavor is OK, but whole fennel seeds in a sausage this small and lean makes me yearn for a good finocchiona...

                    I want these products to be good - and I will keep trying them until they are! I hope you will post more salumi discoveries - I love your reports.

                    1. re: reinadetostones

                      Thanks for giving them another shot. I picked up some of those sausages at the market yesterday and plan to grill 'em up later. Also, I'm pretty sure Barrie Cullinan makes those rolls. (Also picked up some lardo, which I've yet to try.)

                      They had some non-hot dog mortadella a few weeks ago that was very good. Too bad about the Toscano. I'm not sure I've tried that one, though I did have a S&T salami that was small in circumference at Trace a month of two ago that I enjoyed.

                      As for salumi discoveries... Whole Foods on Lamar recently received a large batch of Creminelli products and a bit of Fra'mani. Probably 10-12 items, all cut to order at the deli counter. (As opposed to the whole, small salamis previously available.) Tried a few Creminelli items (including a finocchiona)... I'm still not wild about the stuff, but certainly a vast improvement over Applegate.

                      1. re: Steven Dilley

                        On my way to WF! Thanks! - and you know, that beer sausage was good enough that I will be back for some to grill for houseguests next month.

                        1. re: Steven Dilley

                          Oh - I just had a thought - since they are picklers too, perhaps these fresh sausages and great mustard could be accompanied by some artisan sauerkraut?!

                          I went to the Barrie Cullinan site and saw the very roll that dog came on featured in a beautiful photo, along with some other delights I will be trying very soon. Another hearty thanks!

                    2. re: reinadetostones

                      What was the problem with Kocurek bacon & rilletes?

                      1. re: chascates

                        The rillettes were OK, but nothing special to my taste...and the smoked bacon was way too smoky for me. These are my opinions, your mileage may vary.

                    3. Antonelli's is a gustatory god-send!

                      It is so much fun to taste and choose your cheese with people who appreciate the good "stinky" stuff. And with the seasonal and limited availability of many of their artisanal items, there is always going to be something new to experience.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: FoieGrasHotDog

                        Yes, I didn't mention that my six year old son (budding 'hound) had his first stinky cheese revelation thanks to John Antonelli's generosity in allowing a little guy to sample as well....I can't remember the name of the cheese, but the houndlet said "wow mom, that STINKS..." I told him just to try it, he did and said "wow mom, that tastes GREAT!"

                        1. re: reinadetostones

                          Stinky cheese rocks!! Sounds like you have a convert - way to go! :)