New-wave burgers, Neapolitan pizza, Spanish tapas, Ipswich clams, high tea — Rockville Centre has it all. Except, noted longtime resident Chris O’Mara, a cheese shop. And so, on Dec. 8, she rectified the situation by opening Village Cheese Merchant.
A cheese enthusiast but not an expert, O’Mara partnered with Patrick Ambrosio, a veteran cheesemonger whose Huntington cheese counter (Le Bon Fromage, at the back of the Crushed Olive on Main Street) had just closed. Ambrosio started his cheese career at Dean & DeLuca in Napa Valley and, on Long Island, he ran cheese departments at Bernard’s Market in Glen Head (now closed) and the Babylon Cheese Cellar.
In Rockville Centre, Ambrosio has stocked more than 40 cheeses, both domestic and imported, and he’s gone out of his way to find little-known gems that offer great value. He’s currently touting Chartreux, a soigné semisoft cheese from Southeast France that he likens to the great Morbier. “It’s almost impossible to find real Morbier in the U.S. right now,” he said. “Chartreux is simply one of the greatest semisoft cheeses available right now.” He’s selling it for $19.95 a pound.
Another “terrific value,” he said, is Le Cousin ($23.95), made in Switzerland but ripened in France. “I think it compares very favorably with the great Swiss mountain cheeses — Appenzeller, Emmentaler and Gruyère.”
Ambrosio is also bullish on Lake’s Edge ($32.95), a young goat cheese with an interior vein of ash. It reminds him of Humboldt Fog, from Cypress Grove in California, but with more of a fresh creaminess.
Of course you’ll also find Italian Piave, French Bleu d’Auvergne, English Stilton, Italian Fontina, Spanish Manchego as well as a good selection of cured meats (sausages by Molinari, Olli, Alps and Trois Cochons, as well as Prosciutto di Parma, jamon serrano and bauernschinken ham from Germany). Plenty of cheese-adjacent products too: crackers and preserves, cheese knives and boards.
The light-filled shop is large enough for a few tables and, in the coming months, Ambrosio and O’Mara plan to create a little dining area where patrons can enjoy a cheese plate or a sandwich and a glass of wine.
Village Cheese Merchant is at 28 S. Park Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-705-5020.