High quality Italian foods, local cheeses and OMG sandwiches at Commercial Drive’s La Grotta Del Formaggio
La Grotta Del Formaggio is a family-run destination Italian food store offering local products, Italian specialties and a famous sandwich bar.
The family run business was established in 1979 by Fortunato Bruzzese. Today, La Grotta Del Formaggio thrives in its original location—and the entire family is still part of the business.
Walk in and you’ll find a small, bright, casual grocery store packed with Italian sweets, cheeses, tomatoes, pastas, coffee, olive oils and fresh bread. There’s also a deli featuring several types of olives, prepared antipasti, deli meats and the incredible Italian sandwich bar.
Pictured: La Grotta Del Formaggio owner Fortunato Bruzzese (Angie Schick photo)
La Grotta’s famous sandwich bar
Fortunato tells me that the sandwich bar was quietly added to the store about eight years ago and became popular purely by word of mouth.
“We didn’t do any advertising, but people came,” he recalls. “People from Vancouver, New York, Toronto—from all over, they come for the sandwiches.”
And they still do: Expect to find long lines, sometimes out the door, of eager patrons looking to pick something up from La Grotta’s sandwich bar.
Pictured: The olive lover's weakness—La Grotta's olive bar (Angie Schick photo)
Locally sourced and high quality ingredients—and great advice
While the store focuses on Italian ingredients, they also carry many local products, including breads, crackers and cheese from Comox Valley, Salt Spring Island and Agassiz.
Bruzesse adds that customers visit the store for good quality extra virgin olive oil and vinegars.
A tip he gave me during my recent visit: Pure extra virgin olive oil should freeze 100%. If only half the bottle freezes, then only half the bottle is the real olive oil (and the rest is filler).
The Bruzesse family and staff are all about good customer service as well, and give you honest and informed information. I remember a while back I picked up a container of mascarpone cheese and brought it to the checkout. Fortunato took a look at it and told me that the package says the cheese expired yesterday. “You don’t have to buy it,” he said, “but I know it’s good.“ How do you know it’s good?” I asked. “I know,” he nodded with certainty, explaining he could tell based on the feeling of the container. I bought it. And he was right—it was good.
During my last visit, I picked out a stellar antipasti platter for a holiday party I was holding, featuring mini bocconcini, roasted peppers, salami, mortadella, mixed olives and a selection of cheeses. It’s a convenient way to offer excellent food during the holiday party season.
Prices are very reasonable and often more affordable when compared with other stores in town.
Find recipes from La Grotta in 'Cook the 'Hood'
Learn more about La Grotta Del Formaggio in the Commercial Drive cookbook Cook the 'Hood, available at the store and several local merchants.
Visit this local Italian grocery store once and you’ll keep coming back.
La Grotta Del Formaggio
Open 7 days a week
1791 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
Vancouver blogger Angie Schick spends all her spare time eating, shopping and spa-ing her way through the city. She writes primarily about independent restaurants that offer experiences unique to Vancouver. She expects a lot (just ask her friends!) and will always post honest thoughts and recommend places where she would actually go herself. Blog / Twitter