How to Make a Cheese and Charcuterie Board, According to an Italian Chef

Less is more.

By Chanel Dror
our latest austin restaurant obsession

When it comes to cheese boards, I’m guilty of taking the more-is-more approach. Until now, I’ve felt that the more lush and abundant you can pile toppings onto a cutting board, the better. But since visiting with Erind Halilaj, bonafide Italiano and Executive Chef behind Austin’s new favorite sandwich shop, La Matta, I’ve been reconsidering my cheese board approach.

When your ingredients are fresh, homemade, and delicious, like the straight-from-Italy artisanal cheeses and charcuterie at La Matta, well, you really don’t need much else.

Proving that less is more, Erind and his team serve authentic ingredients exactly as they’d be served in Italy. We are completely obsessed, and if you’re still not convinced, we’ve got photos from our latest visit La Matta to get ya there.

photography by Wynn Myers

At the corner of 5th and Comal, La Matta is primely located. There’s no shortage of great food on the East Side, but none fill a need quite like this one, which is perfect for a casual, delicious lunch date.

When we asked Erind to name his favorite item on the La Matta menu, he confidently replied, “The prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula panini in ciabatta — it is the perfect representation of an Italian sandwich. And our speck dell’alto adige, taleggio, grilled zucchini, arugula, panini on pugliese for its texture.”

I couldn’t turn down a cappuccino upon arrival, and combined with La Matta’s cheery, light-filled space, it had us instantly feeling happy.

How adorable is this space? We were so excited to pull up a seat at the booth and finally get to try some cheese and charcuterie, and learn more about both from Erind.

We asked Erind…

If you had to pick one: cheese OR charcuterie.

Erind: “Cheese. It’s much more complex than cured meats.”

What makes the perfect cheese and charcuterie board?

Erind: “Finding the perfect balance between ingredients. Sourcing cheeses that are hard, sweet, soft, and aged — combining different textures in harmony on the same board is extremely important. I also prefer to pair cheese with fruit rather than honey for flavor. For example, parmigiana happens to pair really well with grapes! Of course, the aesthetic of the board is also important. Visually, it’s the first thing you experience.”

We asked Erind to build us a quintessentially Italian, perfectly balanced cheese and charcuterie board. It consisted of:

  • Soppressata — Italian lightly spicy aged salami
  • Mozzarella Di Bufala — mozzarella made from Italian buffalo milk
  • Honey
  • Taleggio — semisoft, washed-rind, smear-ripened Italian cheese named after Val Taleggio
  • Speck Dell-Alto Adige — dry-cured, lightly smoked ham, produced in Northern Italy
  • Caprino — Italian goat cheese
  • ‘Nduja — spicy, spreadable pork salumi from Italy
  • Prosciutto Di Parma — Italian-cured ham

I perused the Italian games, books and wine on our way out, and while it had us desperately missing our team trip to Tuscany, we’re so thrilled to now have access to all that yummy cheese and charcuterie in La Matta. Salute!