A small chalkboard sign in front of Venissimo's Mission Hills location the other day didn't exactly inspire confidence. “Cheese Sandwich —$5.00,” it said with a straight white face, inspiring a double-take amid my pedestrian concept of the fare (probably a carry-over from my semi-urban childhood of the 1920s). Five bonks for a piece of cheese between two slices of bread? What's the bread made of? Mulberry silk?!
But we're not just talkin' any sandwich, which is apparent the second your nose walks into this premiere cheese shop. Go ahead. Take a big, deep breath and hold it. Everything's alive with the scent of seasoned dairy—the musky air reeks of authenticity and depth of expertise. Two giant display cases tout wedge after wedge of cheeses from all over the place, more than enough of which will satisfy a big spender's urge without ripping a new one in a cheapskate's wallet. For $16, you can get some Isle of Mull (tangy, delicious and from Scotland, not necessarily a top-of-mind place when it comes to cheese). And at $16.40, there's Chimay, made by a sect of Belgian monks (lest you think anybody's been skimming from the top on that one). There's even something for $5—the Bouchees Bundle, an assortment of goat-milk blends from France, said to be good with lots of different breads. Most of the products are sold in half-pound increments.
There are reportedly nearly 2,000 types of cheese worldwide, and Venissimo has dabbled in about 800 of those since its opening in 2003. You can help pave the way to No. 801 by calling in an order at 619-491-0708 or by dropping in at 754 W. Washington St. Mondays through Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. (there's also a location in Del Mar). Once you've got a handle on the place, that $5 sandwich looks like a serious bargain. That's probably because it is.