Friday, October 31, 2008

Albanese Meats & Poultry

Yesterday I wrote about the transformation of Elizabeth Street and mentioned that I am worried about sole survivor, Albanese Meats & Poultry shop. The last time I visited Elizabeth, one year ago, the shop's windows were full of signs and memorabilia, and the shop was cluttered with photographs, papers, and other signs of busy life.

Today the place is spare and uncluttered. It was closed when I went by and the only indication that Mr. Albanese was still at work was the calendar on the wall, turned to the current month.


October 2007


October 2008

Maybe he's just neatening up the place. Maybe it's a sign of vanishing. Either way, it got me in a sentimental mood (not hard to do).

For those who remember, or want to remember, the way Elizabeth once was, the following is excerpted from a journal I kept in 1996. Bear in mind, I was younger then and more exuberant, and the city was a more enlivening place.



1996:
Walking home, I stopped at LaRosa's on Elizabeth Street. I can’t resist that smell of hot baking bread that fills the neighborhood. I stepped inside. The bakers were pulling hot loaves from the oven. I bought one for 50 cents, broke it open on the street, and ate it with my bare hands. The soft, white bread was like warm milk.

I passed Bella’s Luncheonette where you can eat cheeseburgers at the window and maybe see Jim Jarmusch walk by.

Inside Albanese Meats, the butcher was working on a slab of beef, carefully trimming the fat. He stepped out to the street for a moment, the blood on his apron, knife shining in his hand. He looked around as if expecting someone, then nodded to me, and went back inside.

I went in and asked, "Is that veal you're working on?"
"You got a taste for veal?" he asked me.
"Yes," I said, "How much for one good cutlet?"
"About four dollars. You want one? I'll get you a good cut.”

He went to the back and took out a bag labeled HIPS and a long sharp knife. He tried out the knife on the HIPS before going back to the veal. His white-haired mother sat watching the television. She smiled at me. There was a poster-size photo of her hanging on the wall with a banner that said: Happy 90th Birthday.


Albanese mother and son

I watched the butcher work on the veal. It was still practically a calf. He slapped it with his palm, as if to wake it, then trimmed off a nice pink slice.

"Good?" he asked, holding it up to the watery light.
"Very good," I said, watching him wrap the cutlet in butcher paper and put it in a bag.

I was so happy, carrying home what seemed to be the most beautiful piece of veal in the world. I put on Mario Lanza, baked a potato, and fried up the cutlet dipped in egg and bread crumbs. It was possibly the most amazing piece of food I have ever put into my mouth.

Back to 2008:

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have heard that they may be working on a partnership with a group that sells locally and humanely raised meat and poultry. Seems like a great idea to me given that it preserves the original heritage of the shop while bringing something new and pertinent to the area. Farmers markets seem to be the prime place to get stuff like this these days...

ken mac said...

a sad post today

KnicksBasketballNY said...

My friend wants to dress up as a steel glassed luxury condo.

I want to dress up as a wrecking ball and crash her off of her feet and into the ground as we walk down the street together.

^ I need some ideas on how to put this all together in just a few hours.

Unfortunately time is not on our side.

Anybody else going to the parade tonight?

Anonymous said...

thanks for the post. brought back great memories for me. i lived on elizabeth street in '90. it was changing already back then. le poeme, connecticut muffin, etc. nearby.

what really made it more palatable to the new crowd was cafe gitane. ugh.

i hardly set foot in the neighborhood anymore. i stick to my secret corner of the city that remains decidely untrendy yet convenient.

Anonymous said...

When I moved to the West Village long ago, there were several wonderful butchers and bakers. In my memory, they tended to be Italian American. Sadly, they've gone, replaced by smart eateries, filled with girls in pearls and guys in blue ties whose loud laughter and inane chit chat are the very assassins of dead air. I wish your blog had been present then to give these butchers and bakers an immortality they so deserved.

David said...

That's a real shame if they've shut up shop. But Moe has a site, www.moethebutcher.com, and there's a halloween update, so maybe they're just doing a spot of cleaning. Thanks for the link! David

R. G. Sand said...

Boy, did your post bring back memories. I returned to NYC in September 1996 after living in San Francisco for nearly 15 years. The first apartment I lived in was at 202 Elizabeth Street, which I had subletted from one of my best friends (we've known each other since we were 11 years old). God, I remember the bread, Bellas, walking by Albanese Meats. I loved that neighborhood so much. Each time I visit the neighborhood I cry at all the changes and wish it could go back to the way it was.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks david, hope you're right. your pics are great.

hey knicks, did you get that costume together?

& thanks everyone for sharing the elizabeth memories.

paolo mastrangelo said...

fabulous post j

Anonymous said...

sorry one man can't save him,
the neighborhood demographics changed.
they want prepared foods even if it's from trader joe's.
notice his free range chicken sign, how many people bought them?
maybe he can move below Canal street where immigrants still cook their dinner daily.

chris flash said...

I've passed by Albanese Meats several times at night over the past few months on my way north from Chinatown and have seen an old man seemingly busy, cutting meats.

It feels reassuring to see him there, even if I don't see any customers, though maybe it's busier during the day. Perhaps he owns the building and can't be kicked out or get his rent jacked up by a landlord. The smarter mom+pop businesses locked in 20-30 years ago when real estate was cheap -- this seems to be the only way for them to stay in business.

A good example of this is the Poseiden Bakery on Ninth Ave. near 46th Street. They bought their building in the late 1940s after being forced out of their original location on Ninth Avenue to make way for the Port Authority Bus Terminal. They've got the third generation of their family making incredible delicacies at good prices and they know their customers by nsme.

THAT is what makes a city, not trendy dives patronized by monied transients that displace long term businesses and lower to moderate income tenants who make up the fabric of our community!!

JAZ said...

Chris' comment above is one of my favorite reader's posts that I've read here.

Anonymous said...

I got a huge cut of prime rib eye at this store yesterday. it was great.

Anonymous said...

I am a regular customer at this store. Moe is still cranking away, now supported by a pacemaker, at age 86 or 87 (I get a different number whenever I ask.)

Don't just wax nostalgic about the place -- go and order some meat! Your local butcher is about the only place to get prime beef outside a restaurant these days. Moe's quality in particular is superb. Best I've ever had.