Just south of downtown Boston, about 15 to 20 blocks from Boston Common, Formaggio Kitchen-South End offers foodies and anyone in need of high quality treats a feast for the senses. This well-regarded local shop specializes in artisanal food products. From the moment you walk in and catch sight of the overburdened shelves, the deli, and the stunning cheese counter packed with a selection of local, regional, and imported cheeses, you’ll know you’re among friends. If you love to cook and are curious about the work of small batch producers, Formaggio Kitchen-South End will satisfy your cravings.
For me, knowing that Formaggio exists in the heart of the city is a bit like discovering C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe, or suddenly stepping into the Diagon Alley of food. Simply walking into Formaggio was enough to convince me that I’d bitten off more than I could chew.
The shop itself is a kind of gateway drug. A quaint, smallish storefront with charmingly old school appointments draws you on to rack after rack of local and regional artisanal products and specialty items. This is the perfect place to stock the gourmet shelf of your pantry or shop for gifts. From oils and spices to wine, water, chips, crackers, cheese, and prepared foods like sandwiches and salads, Formaggio seems to be one of those places where, “if they don’t have it, they can probably get it for you”. That said, the truly addictive aspect to this culinary treasure trove is information and customer service.
While Formaggio’s list of products seems all but endless, the staff’s enthusiasm and their way of encouraging you to expand your knowledge and interest level are what will bring you back. Judging by the wealth of information offered at the massive cheese counter and kitchen in the back, to the information cards and staff suggestions on the racks, this is a store for the culinary curious by the culinary curious. You get the sense that they know what you want before you want it. That’s because, along the way, they’ve probably wanted it (information, or, perhaps the perfect cheese/nut/honey combination) too.
Speaking with David Robinson, Formaggio’s cheese buyer, sold me on the depth and breadth of Massachusetts cheeses, and was a wealth of knowledge about the ways that the world of cheesemaking has changed for producers, retailers, and consumers alike. Robinson’s intimate knowledge of small batch producers around Boston, throughout New England, and further afield, had me wishing I had more time and luggage space. Formaggio’s (Robinson’s) ability to source products is so well regarded that they often supply restaurants as far away as New York City. And they do ship products. The majority of their stock is listed on their website, but it’s variable enough that they can’t say it’s “all” online. They probably have 70-80% of their available cheese listed online. Robinson special orders as much as he can, but warns that with smaller producers it can be a bit harder and somewhat uncertain. And for cheese traveling longer distances he recommends paying for overnight delivery.
But Formaggio Kitchen – South End is not all about carefully curated meals and special orders, it’s also perfect for a last minute supper, or even a quick snack.
Situated on picturesque Shawmut Ave., Formaggio is just around the corner from Peters Park, a quite vest pocket park and dog walk, making it an ideal spot to enjoy a bit of cheese, bread, and some fresh olives along with a cool drink on a warm day. The Formaggio “family” also includes a somewhat larger (more traditional grocery) shop and a teaching space across the river in Cambridge.
Formaggio Kitchen South End is a foodie playground, but not a dalliance. The foods here are all very approachable and sensible (as is the staff). It’s not a glitzy food museum. It’s for people who like to make, eat, and learn more about food, particularly, local and regional small batch (artisan) producers.
You can follow this link to read more of my interview with David Robinson, Formaggio Kitchen’s cheese buyer.
text and photos by Glenn D. Kaufmann
Formaggio Kitchen – South End
268 Shawmut Ave.
Boston, MA 02118
The author/editor is indebted to others for the content in this article. While the final product on this page is ours, and we claim full ownership and responsibility for same, what you read here is based on our research, which led us to the following sources of information:
1. Personal Interviews and experiences