Much hype accompanied the opening of Di Bruno Brothers‘ stand in the Ardmore Farmers Market last year – and with good reason. The legendary Italian Market “House of Cheese” has been providing Philadelphians with incredible access to gourmet cheeses, charcuterie and specialty foods since 1965, so it was about time for Main Liners to get in on the act without a trek downtown.

That said, there’s still one specialty feature of the 9th street shop that you can’t get in Ardmore: the after-hours private tasting. That’s right folks, for just $200, you and 7 friends can take over the Italian Market Di Bruno store for two hours, wreak havoc on the antipasto bar, and taste a wide variety of Di Bruno’s best meats and cheeses. It’s BYO too.

The night basically works like this: show up at the appointed time with your friends. To start off the night, they’ll set you loose on the antipasto bar, which is mostly olives, but also marinated veggies of varying types, paired with as much bread as you can eat. While you’re digging in, the mongers will be bringing out plates of cheeses, meats and other tasty goodies the store has to offer. (The plates were themed as “easy party plates” for entertaining, but I was too busy eating to pay too much attention to the spiel.) By the end of the night, you’ll be stuffed. But, before you go, you can purchase anything in the store for 10% off.

Here are some highlights:

  • The mongers paired cheeses with the wine or beer on hand. We, for example, cracked a bottle of Italian Montepulciano, which was paired with Fiore Sardo, a wonderfully smoky Sardinian pecorino.
  • Fresh mozzerella with Di Bruno’s house-made pesto & black lava sea salt
  • A mini-sandwich of Skillet bacon jam, with a honey-pepper spread and some cheese that I forgot the name of because I was so enthralled with the bacon-honey-pepper mixture
  • Dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped with guanciale
  • A slice of bread with dulce de leche caramel sauce and Virginia ham – maybe my favorite bite of the evening – the perfect blend of salty and sweet
  • A dessert tray from which I ate a lot, but remember mostly for the cocoa pecans

The night was decidedly casual – we stood, eating out of to-go containers and napkins, drinking wine out of little plastic cups (don’t bring anything too nice – just casual, everyday wines), chatting with the mongers and with each other. The guys working were friendly and accommodating, even filling some special requests that were clearly off-script (including cracking a very expensive bottle of olive oil so I could have a taste).

All in all, this was a great night out that was very, very different from the standard restaurant experience, yet provided an interesting and excellent culinary experience. Highly recommended.

Di Bruno Bros Italian Market
930 S. 9th Street, Philadelphia
(215) 922-2876

Tastings are available after the shop closes, on Monday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and Tuesday – Saturday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Call the store to reserve.