Specialty shops are not dead. Just ask Kendall and John of Antonelli's Cheese Shop in Austin (4220 Duval Street). On February 11 of this year, they opened Antonelli's Cheese Shop in the city's famous Hyde Park area. Not to worry, Hyde Park Grill and Dolce Vita fans. Antonelli's Cheese Shop has not replaced these Austin icons.
John, a former CPA, and Kendall, a former non-profit employee, opened Antonelli's for two reasons. One, they always wanted to work together. And two, they wanted to talk about cheese. They wanted to spend their days talking about cheese, tasting cheese and selling cheese. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, for them, it's been great. "We've had so much fun doing this," Kendall explains. "The cheese community and neighborhood restaurants have been so receptive." Neighboring Asti even brought them champagne to welcome them to the neighborhood.
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So how did this young married couple get into the cheese business? "On our honeymoon, I told Kendall I wanted to quit my job and work in the cheese industry," John say. He wasn't kidding. He spent the next few years researching cheese, working at Kerbey Lane, and interning in France.
Fortunately, Kendall was very receptive. "When John got sick last year, I knew I wanted to go into the cheese business with him," Kendall says. "I wasn't able to be with him for his doctors' appointments because of work." Now John's better, and they get to spend all day every day with each other.
To be clear, Antonelli's doesn't make cheese. They are just selling all their favorites, from French cheeses to local varieties. They even sell all the accoutrements - wine, charcuterie, nuts, olive oil and crackers. "We want to be a one-stop shop for cheese and everything that goes with it," they say. "Whether you are on your way to a party or just dinner, we have everything you need."
John and Kendall let you try all their cheeses before you have to make any decisions. You start with a fresh cheese like the hand-dipped ricotta,a then move to a washed-rind or semi-soft cheese, and end with a blue cheese. They even have cheese made from water buffalo, which was a first for us. That day, we left with just a few of our favorites -- the Sir Francis Drake (soft cheese washed with Sauterne), the Sottocenere (black truffle cheese) and aged Parmesan. To round off our selection, Kendall suggested the Finocchiona dry cured salami from San Francisco, a favorite of John's. We tore into that one before we even got to the car.