Best of Boston All-Stars: What’s New at Formaggio Kitchen

Formaggio Kitchen has been a local staple since 1978, amassing a devoted clientele that's included the likes of Julia Child. But they specialize in far more than just cheese. Here's what's in store this year.

Welcome to Best of Boston All-Stars, where we revisit longtime Best of Boston favorites to find out what’s new.

Formaggio Kitchen

Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge / Courtesy photo

We take good cheese very seriously here at Boston magazine. More often than not, the true key to our hearts is a nice wedge of Manchego. And almost nobody on the planet knows Manchego (along with the hundreds of other cheeses they carry) better than Formaggio Kitchen—which would explain why they’ve been dominating our “Best Cheese Shop” awards for some 30 years now.

Since it opened in 1978, Formaggio has been a refuge for those who “truly, madly, deeply love cheese,” as we enthused in (yes) the ’90s, back when you could find Julia Child scoping out the cheese counter. Decades later, our Formaggio ardor remains unwavering: “If your idea of heaven smells like stinky blues and buttery Comté, welcome to paradise,” we wrote earlier this year.

Or, as Formaggio staffer Tim Bucciarelli puts it: “We are a shop for anyone who cares about food.”

Over the years, Formaggio has expanded its empire from its Huron Avenue flagship, adding a second storefront in the South End and a New York outpost. And while the store had long been guided by European sensibilities, they took it to a new level in 1997, when co-owner Ihsan Gurdal—who runs the business with his wife, Valerie—built a cheese-aging cave in the Cambridge shop’s basement. According to Formaggio, it was “the first of its kind in the U.S.

Formaggio interior (left) and classes (right

Formaggio interior (left) and classes (right) / Courtesy photos by Joyelle West

That said, Formaggio is about more than just great cheese. The shop carries specialty groceries, ranging from exotic spices to artisan chocolates. “We are decidedly old-school in our approach,” says Bucciarelli. “We eschew the grab-and-go retail mentality and focus on each customer individually.”

And not content to be contained in the store, they’ve taken their wares to the street. During the warm-weather months, the shop fires up its Weber grill to cook up such meaty treats as hot dogs, house-made sausages, pulled pork, chicken, and lamb. In our 2007 “Best Street Food” award, we opined that it “just might be the Hub’s most joyous eating experience.”

It’s also an eating experience you still have a chance to get in on this year—Formaggio’s outdoor barbecue season runs through October.

While Formaggio prides itself on one-on-one service, if you’re looking to get even more hands-on with the goods, check out their year-round classes, most offered in their new Classroom Annex. The program, which launched a few years ago, is rife with culinary cameos.

“This year we are focusing on working with many of the amazing local chefs we have relationships with,” says Bucciarelli. Upcoming classes guest-star such local luminaries as Craigie On Main’s Tony Maws, T.W. Food’s Conor Dennehy, and Flour Bakery’s Sarah Powers; Formaggio’s also joining forces with Bantam for a cider-and-cheese-pairing class.

“Our goal is not only to expose class attendees to our wonderful cheeses, wines and beers,” Bucciarelli says, “but also to open their eyes to the many talented people working in the Boston food scene.”

Formaggio Kitchen, 888-212-3224,