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Food + Cooking

What a Friend We Have in Cheeses


In the New York area—especially Brooklyn and the Bronx—there are neighborhood enclaves that represent immigration from specific regions of Italy, often from a single town. The eating habits of these groups still reflect their origins, even though they may have emigrated a century ago. Around here, Sicilians still consume broccoli rabe by the bushel, and Apulians still crave the navel-shaped crackers called taralli. A homemade neck-meat ham called capocolo, which is easy to find in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, is a favorite of Calabrians, who hail from the toe of the Italian boot. Recently, however, I discovered another hotbed of Calabrian products in the Bronx.

In the Little Italy known as Belmont, there's a quaint little cheese store called Calandra's, founded in 1952 by the late Sicilian immigrant Salavatore Calandra. All of the cheeses are still homemade (many cheese makers use prepared curds), either on site at the shop or at the Nazareth, Pennsylvania dairy run by Calandra's sons. In the window of the Arthur Avenue store hang innumerable caciocavallos, some playfully shaped like pigs, others like mice.