Patrick Ambrosio’s decades-long affair with cheese has aged like a fine wine.
About 20 years ago, he and his future wife Gale spent a brief stint in California, where they worked at a winery. She was the director of hospitality and he was a chef, working a few events each month.
Patrick Ambrosio soon accepted a job at Dean & DeLuca in Napa Valley and dove headfirst into the realm of gourmet cheeses. When the couple moved back to Long Island, he stuck with the gourmet cheese business, managing the gourmet cheese department at Crushed Olive’s old Main Street location in Huntington.
After many years and different shops, he considered retiring from the business in March in 2021. But that was before he noticed a quaint vacant New York Avenue storefront.
“This came along, and it’s a small little space,” Ambrosio, 65, said of his new shop The Town Cheesemonger, inside Industry Lounge and Gallery at 344 New York Ave. “It’s a nice manageable kind of shop that I can do a couple of days a week, and grow it organically and see what happens.”
“In a space like this, if there’s good momentum, I can bring something really nice to the people of Huntington,” he added.
At The Town Cheesemonger, customers taste and learn about the different European and American cheeses that Ambrosio carries. Since the doors opened a month ago, the creamy Delice De Bourgogne; Prairie Breeze, a sharp white cheddar from Iowa; and the Challerhocker, an aged Swiss akin to a Gruyère with multiple flavor notes, have emerged as the popular staples.
A loyal following for niche cheese
The challerhocker is a favorite of customer Amy Girimonti, who returned to the Town Cheesemonger for another helping Friday afternoon. On her first visit, she purchased the cheese along with truffle honey and biscuits for pairing, as well as slices of drunken goat and excellence.
Like many Huntington residents, she has turned to Ambrosio for her cheese needs, dating back to his Crushed Olive days.
“This is special,” Girimonti, 52, said of the new shop. “[Patrick] knows so much about cheese and all the different things to pair them with and how to serve them. He’s friendly, he’s jovial, he’ll let you taste things. He takes his time with you.”
Ambrosio said he is thankful he maintain relationships with Huntington residents throughout his career as a cheese monger. He said this will give him the base and momentum to share his products and his vision with a broader audience.
“You can buy cheese in a number of outlets in today’s world,” he said. “But the difference here is I’ve got a lot of cheese you’re not going to find in conventional outlets. I’m shooting for a better level of cheese than you might see in your conventional outlets.”
For the next two months, the Town Cheesemonger will be open three days a week: Thursday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Ambrosio he will expand his hours as the calendar gets closer to spring. Further down the line, he hopes to expand his product line, while localizing his purchases.
“I do have a fair amount of European cheese in here now,” he said. “But my dream is to convert it over to a more local, small farm kind of thing, where I’m buying directly from farmers when their stuff is at its peak condition. More New York state, Vermont — maybe from a 500-mile radius around here.”