With , his new "le style Francais" cafe and gourmet specialty shop at 216B Main Street, Joseph Ciardullo hopes its selection of domestic and imported artisan cheeses, craft beer, and small-production boutique wines provide more than nourishment; he aspires for an experience of culture, and an appreciation for life.
"I want C'est Cheese to be a cool place to relax and enjoy life," said Ciardullo, a resident of Port Jefferson since 2005. "I've always had a love for the European style—carefree, relaxed, and always with a bottle of wine."
Ciardullo, who studied at the Culinary Academy of Long Island, Inc., and the French Culinary Institute of New York, opened C'est Cheese (pronounced say cheese) on Thursday; and thus far, customer response has been positive.
"Everyone seems to love our creativity with cheese," Ciardullo said, referring to two charcoal-colored chalkboards of assorted cheese-focused sandwiches and salads. The Somerset, for example, combines melted aged cheddar, sun-dried tomato pesto, black olive tapenade, and fresh basil, on one's choice of baguette.
C'est Cheese's retail shop offers over 75 varieties of handcrafted cheeses (produced in smaller quantities, and often more complex in flavor and texture than mass-manufactured cheeses, due to shifting milk mediums, and techniques such as aging), with "the expectation of doubling the list within a few months." Examples include Cypress Grove Chevre, Consider Bardwell Farm, and Jasper Hill Farm, which produce one of Ciardullo's favorite cheeses, Constant Bliss.
"It's a bloomy rind cheese that has an incredible mushroom, truffle and butter flavor."
With an eight-line craft beer tower and boutique wine list, to pair with C'est Cheese's custom cheese plates and dishes, Ciardullo also plans to host private group tastings to educate customers on how drink can compliment cheese, and accentuate the flavors of both.
"It is very important that the flavors pair well with each other or you take the chance of losing the essence of the cheese, wine or beer."
Though open for less than one week, Ciardullo believes his shop will flourish, because of its unique atmosphere.
"There are a limited number of good cheese shops across Long Island, and I saw the need for a place where people could go and enjoy a drink that wasn't a bar," he said. "So when planning the concept, I thought why not merge the two."