Locally farmed cheeses are a passion for Brooklyn South Deli
owner Matt Bonano.
His delicatessen at 1437 Central Avenue is a new arrival in downtown St. Petersburg, open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Bonano says he will make adjustments to hours of operation and menu items based on customer response.
Customers can buy by the pound to take home or order salads, sandwiches and melts freshly made at the shop including a cheddar and fig jam sandwich. Bonano also has a charcuterie station and makes his own braised pulled pork and jerk chicken. Turkey, smoked salmon and tuna also are on the menu.
Specialty items include jams, jellies, chutneys and home-made kettle cooked potato chips. The deli offers mainly take-out but limited seating is available. The walls are decorated with cheese labels Bonano has collected since the 1990s.
The Brooklyn transplant is excited about St. Petersburg's energized downtown scene and the influx of new residents.
"We fell in love with the place. We had a vision," says Bonano who is a chef and studied culinary arts at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. "St. Petersburg is exploding with a lot of culture. It's also getting a lot younger. There are more foodies and people who travel around and enjoy fine foods. People are realizing it's not just a retirement area anymore."
Early on, his career path as a chef took a slight detour one day at Alon's Bakery & Market in Atlanta when a tall tub of French blue cheese (Fourme d'Ambert) arrived. It was a gooey mess that other employees stepped away from.
"To me it was love at first sight," says Bonano. "I was entranced by it."
He read everything he could find about artisan cheese making.
And eventually he became wholesale production manager for Murray's Cheese.
Currently he serves on the judging and competition committee of the American Cheese Society
, an industry organization that promotes American cheese production.
"We try to promote the American artisan movement," Bonano says. "Cheese is at the top of the heap."
But he says there also is support for a return to small farms and locally grown meats from cattle, hogs, goats and fisheries.
In the future, Bonano plans to host small cheese parties at Brooklyn South Deli once a week after the deli is closed. He would like the deli to be a gathering place. "We'll talk food, talk cheese, have champagne or glasses of wine," he says.
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Matt Bonano, Brooklyn South Deli