CHEF OPENS CHEESE ‘CAVE’ ON MONMOUTH

stephen-cataniaStephen Catania will open the doors to The Cheese Cave Saturday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Stephen Catania says it’s a wide world of cheeses out there, and every cheese has a story: where it came from, the family or company that produced it, how it was made.

His job, as he sees it, is to introduce you to that world and tell you those stories.

Catania will do that through his latest venture, The Cheese Cave, set to open its doors in Red Bank Saturday morning.

A classically-trained chef with roots in the restaurant and hotel industry, Catania is a man who loves his cheese. He intends to not only sell about 100 varieties at the shop, but also hold workshops, demonstrations and tastings to introduce greater Red Bank to what he says is an American cheese renaissance.

“It’s really a growing movement,” he said. “I love all food, but I really began to gain a greater appreciation for cheese over the last 10 years as the American cheese movement, as we like to call it, really took hold.”

Catania built everything in his shop to educe the feel of an old-time fromagerie. He installed shelves made from recycled barn wood to hold his auxiliary products, like jams, oils and pastas, and put in a butcher block countertop on which to hand-cut his selections.

“I wanted something that evoked the feeling of a rustic farmhouse, which is really a tribute to the farmers and artisans producing these great cheeses,” he said.

And then there’s the name, which, for a novice, might seem a bit scary.

When Catania’s six-year-old niece asked him why he wanted to call his store a cave, he gave an appropriate rationale.

“I said, ‘well that’s where cheese goes to get happy,'” he said, noting that cheeses are placed in caves to ripen.

With both a specialty olive oil store, Carter & Cavero, and The Wine Cellar just across the street, he would seem to have lucked out on his spot at 14 Monmouth. Even before he took down the brown paper from his storefront this week, Catania said, he was getting several visitors a day asking when he’d open, an indicator that choosing Red Bank for his shop was the right move.

“I wanted a community that embraced small business — small unique, niche business. It’s an area I’m familiar with and have roots in and it demanded a cheese shop,” he said. “It doesn’t guarantee any future success, but it’s certainly better than a stick in the eye.”

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