The Essex Street Market is a Lower East Side staple when it comes to fresh food and prepared goods. Meet the vendors in this profile series and swing by the market all month long during May to celebrate 75 years of Essex Street Market.
Meet Formaggio Essex, known for its wide selection of handcrafted cheeses, artisanal meats, and specialty foods. Formaggio Essex is a prime example of Essex Street Market’s exquisite taste—one that makes it a true foodie destination. We spoke with general manager Andrew Clark.
Owner: Ihsan and Valerie Gurdal
Business Name: Formaggio Essex
How long in market: Since 2006
Products sold: Cheese, charcuterie, oils, vinegars, pasta, honeys, jams, chocolate, etc.
Who started the business and why did they want to be in the market?
Ihsan Gurdal and his wife Valerie opened Formaggio Essex, a NYC branch of Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and South End Formaggio in Boston. Ihsan’s travels around the world have brought an unparalleled selection of rare and unique cheeses and fine foods to the businesses.
What is your favorite memory at the Essex Street Market?
The day I was serenaded on the guitar by a MTA train conductor on his lunch break. It was beautiful.
What is Formaggio Essex’s specialty?
We travel to the source of where many of our products originate, be it Europe, Western Asia, or Central America. We meet with traditional food producers and find a way to get this special food to our counter.
What is your favorite time of the week at the market?
Saturday afternoon! Without question. The bustle and vitality of a busy market day is always at the peak of the weekend. You’ll see customers putting cheese plates together for parties or buying gifts for friends.
Do you source any products from within the market?
No, but we buy a lot of them for our personal use.
Customers can’t see it, but we draw our inspiration and enthusiasm for our work from a poster of Campione del Mundo Marco Tardelli, of the 1982 Italian World Cup-winning team.
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