Updated 2008-10-08 01:01:00 ID=126:1

© 2008 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table, John Cardinale and Jean Higgins, Owners of Di Raimondo's Italian Market 2008-09-25 20:11:47:51
©2008 The Romantic Table

John Cardinale and Jean Higgins, Owners of Di Raimondo's Italian Market and Cheese Shop

John Cardinale and Jean Higgins of Di Raimondo's Italian Market and Cheese Shop.


Husband and wife team John Cardinale and Jean Higgins of Di Raimondo's Italian Market and Cheese Shop talk with The Romantic Table.

If you're in the mood for some cheese and don't know what you want, we suggest you visit Di Raimondo's Italian Market and Cheese Shop. It's a small shop on 13th Street in Paso Robles. Di Raimondo's is usually stocked with at least seventy-five to one hundred local domestic and imported cheeses, several kinds of Italian meats and other gourmet food. It is owned by two of the most friendly and knowledgeable people around, husband and wife team John Cardinale and Jean Higgins. The store is primarily all retail but also does platters for parties and wine tasting as well as catering events and hold wine and cheese pairings. They can also pack a "gourmet picnic lunch" for wine tasters exploring our local wine country.

It was a cool early Fall Monday morning when we went to interview Jean and John Cardinale at their gourmet cheese shop, Di Raimondo's. When we arrived there, a few minutes past opening, there were people waiting to buy their gourmet foodstuffs. Jean was in the next room busy slicing Italian meats for her customers while others customers were eying their favorite cheeses in the coolers' windows. As she worked, Jean was giving everyone a short discourse on the qualities and background of the different meats and cheeses as she offered taste samples to everyone in the store.We tried to stay out of the proprietor's way, knowing well that her customers come first.

As we visited, a steady stream of local and out-of-town customers stopped by "on their way" either going home, out of the area or getting a picnic lunch to take along on a day of local wine-tasting. One of the customers explained that food offerings are usually limited at most of the wineries, so they like to take along some gourmet food to enjoy with the wine. What a great idea we thought.

We were glad to see Di Raimondo's busy. Their business has been impacted by the inconvenience of several months of a blocked sidewalk entrance way, and loss of the front parking area caused by the retrofitting of the next door Idlers building. The retrofit has really affected their sales.

©2008 The Romantic Table, John Cardinale of Di Raimondo's Italian Market and Cheese Shop 2008-09-25 20:01:48:52
©2008 The Romantic Table

John Cardinale of Di Raimondo's Italian Market and Cheese Shop selects an imported Brie Cheese.
Though recently the blocked walkway had been reopened, there is still a problem of the contractors parking their trucks in the few allotted parking spaces that are available for local retail customers. When asked, John shrugged his shoulders and said, "well, local Paso Robles customers are used to parking their cars and expect to walk a bit to their destination. But it is an inconvenience for customers picking up large orders and cheese platters." (The Idlers building is scheduled to be finished in October, 2008.)

When Jean had a minute in between customers, we asked her a few questions. Di Raimondo's opened in November 2002. At that time they had a small store underneath what was the former "Cook's Loft". Since then, they've expanded into an adjoining room. The name "Di Raimondo" is from the maiden name of John's mother.

John is a native Californian, born in Monterey. He moved to Paso Robles when he was very young and has lived most of his life in Paso Robles. John has been a chef at several "icon restaurants" in San Luis Obispo County such as The Brambles in Cambria, Jeanne's Steak House Restaurant, Paso Robles Inn and Madonna Inn.

Jean move to Paso Robles in 1989. Jean also has a background in the culinary and hospitality industry. John and Jean's former professions really serve them well now in their current venture. The store gives them a chance to experiment and amass a formidable knowledge of cheese types and origins while offering interesting and unusual selections of cheeses and meats to their clientèle, If you need help in selecting the right cheese or deli meat to serve your guests in combination with other foods and wine you are serving, give them a call and they can help select a perfect combination.

When the store is fully stocked, Di Raimondo's carries over one hundred twenty-five cheeses. Recently with the reduced sales due to the construction, they had to scale-back a bit and limit what they carry. Now that most of the construction blockade has been removed, and their customer base is returning, Jean and John are looking forward to restocking the store to its former full inventory of cheeses and other gourmet items. Even so, the store usually has on hand at least seventy-five to one hundred different kinds cheeses.

Raimondo's is in the forefront of obtaining new cheeses from often obscure places. They primarily buy from four importers. Usually when one distributer can't get a certain cheese, another one can.

Their cheeses are from all over - of course many Imported from Europe, also many from around California including some not generally available "trial cheeses" from Cal Poly, and sheep and goat milk based cheeses from local area Pozo's Rinconado Dairy. While we were there, several people sampled, then bought some of the "unnamed cheese" from Cal Poly. They raved about it.

Di Raimondo's also stocks a selection of deli meats such as Italian Prosciutto, Salami, mild and hot Capacolla and Pepperoni.

©2008 The Romantic Table  2008-09-26 10:48:44:53
©2008 The Romantic Table

To get the most from your cheese purchase, Di Raimondo's suggests that you:

Serve cheese at room temperature, like red wine it needs to "open-up".

Do not pre-cut cheese into cubes, serve it whole and cut only as needed.

Store your cheese by wrapping it first in parchment paper, then foil over that. Cheese needs to breathe to maintain its freshness.
We asked Jean where her customers came from? Jean told us that they were local of course, as well as lot of out of the area people form Central California as well as Southern California. As if on cue, just then a couple from Southern California, John and Liz, walked into the store. On their way home to Torrence California from a trip to a bicycling event at Great Pass Oregon, John and Liz were making a special side-trip to Di Raimondo's. This was their fourth trip to the cheese shop.

We asked them how they found the shop? Liz said while staying in Paso Robles during another bicycling event, they just happened to stop into the store while browsing the downtown. There they found John and Jean serving customers, offering everyone in the store who cared to taste, a sample of each cheese they were serving while telling them the origins of and how each of cheese was made. John and Jean's local Paso Robles style service was so friendly and helpful, giving them a chance to taste and learn about so many different cheeses, they fell in love with the store. Liz said she now thinks of Di Raimondo's as a "destination in itself." Since both of them enjoy good cheeses and love to cook, they find "excuses" to make the trip here.

"Another thing" said the couple while remarking on how helpful and knowledgeable both owners are, "we could probably find the same products in one of the large markets in Torrance, but the not the same level of service and knowledge. Di Raimondo's is a fun place to visit!"

Besides the in-store retail business, Di Raimondo's also does platters for parties, events and offers wine-pairings. They do many events with wine-makers. Eventually they would like to do cheese tastings in their store at least once a month. But for now their goal is restocking the store with a full-line of cheese, meats and gourmet pastas, olive oils, Balsamic vinegars, Imported olives and other unusual gourmet foodstuffs. While we were there, I noticed even a delicious-looking Spanish cake made simply out of just figs and almonds.

Di Raimondo's Cheese Shop is getting better everyday as more cheeses and meats are delivered. Their main delivery day is Thursdays, so if you want to see their full selection, visit before their busy weekends when they can give you more individualized attention. Di Raimondo's is truly a local treasure that's developing a regional following. Go see for yourself!

DiRaimondo's Italian Market and Cheese Shop, 822 13th Street, Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: 805 238-1268 Open Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.




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A tip from Sue!

Beware cooking wine!

Never use a "so-called cooking wine" that's marketed specifically as a cooking wine for your sauce. Only use a wine that would not be objectionable to drink by itself. In lighter sauces a good one to use is a nice Fume' Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc. In stronger red sauces, use a decent red wine such as a Barolo, Zinfandel or Cabernet.