Carol 'Dearheart' Pascuzzi to take her leave from the Penn Mac cheese counter

For  some Pittsburghers, a trip to the cheese counter at Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. in the Strip District just isn’t going to be the same.

Carol “Dearheart” Pascuzzi, who for more than 30 years charmed and educated the city’s cheese-loving public at the Italian specialty store, is hanging up her white butcher’s apron at the end of May.

“We’re moving to Oklahoma,” she says with a grin.

Say what?

“We’re shocked, too,” she says. Turns out, their middle son, Nick, decided it was time for them to move. “So he bought us a house. All we have to do it show up.

“Isn’t that awesome?” she adds. “How could we say no?”

How indeed, though the news of one of Pittsburgh’s biggest food icon’s retirement is sure to generate sadness with her legions of fans, who turned what she called her customers — “Dearheart” — into her nickname.  

She’s going with her husband, Nick, who is another familiar face behind the cheese counter at Penn Mac, and their two sons. Her mother, Kathleen, who until recently shared their Turtle Creek home, already has moved in with her youngest son, Steve.

It shouldn’t come as a complete surprise: Since they’re both in their 60s, retirement wasn’t far from their minds. But it probably wouldn’t have been for a few more years if son Nick hadn’t called and told them, “Stop dragging your feet. No more excuses.”

Penn Mac owner David Sunseri no doubt wishes he could think of one. He says that the news that the couple is leaving is “a bummer. They’re probably two of the greatest employees I’ve ever had.” 

The store only had a few dozen traditional cheeses when Carol started working there in 1984. Today, says Mr. Sunseri, they have more than 400 from all over the globe. “It’s been a great partnership,” he says.

But “we’ll have someone take her place eventually.” The store has three assistant cheesemongers who are very educated and well trained, “and they want to take on the responsibility.”

In the meantime, he said, Penn Mac probably will throw a party for the couple, who expect their last work day to be around May 22 (they already have an offer on their Turtle Creek home). 

Nick — like his wife, a lifelong Pittsburgher — is excited by the thought of moving, even if it means changing his lifestyle. “They’re more cowboy out there, aren’t they?” 

Carol concedes that leaving her friends, family and scores of customers who love her won’t be easy, but she’s certain the change will be a good one. Not only will she get to see her (only) grandchild Lluisa grow up, but also she’s excited to teach the residents of Bartlesville, which include Lenape and Anadarko Native American tribes, a little somethin’ about cheese. “I’m going to bring a little Pittsburgh West of the Mississippi.”

Gretchen McKay:, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.


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