This lovely blunt and battered instrument is called a pistone.
It's over 200 years old, it's made of brass, and it belongs to Mr. Pino Cinquemani who brought it from Sicily where it's been in his family for I don't know how long. Last time I checked, at Pino's Prime Meats on Sullivan Street he uses the pistone to flatten cutlets.
Like Albanese Meats and Poultry, Pino's is one of the last of Little Italy's remaining butcher shops, in an island of a lost neighborhood swallowed up by Soho. Owned by Mr. Cinquemani since the 1990s, it's been a butcher shop since 1904. Hacksaws hang from a rail and the front window is filled with black-and-white photographs of men with Brylcreemed hair.
A ghost of New York past, Pino survives in this luxe town in part by catering to its trendy eateries. Said the owner of Prune to journalist Brett Martin: "Pino is a perfect old-world gentleman. At the end of the day, he takes off his apron, washes the blood from his fingernails, and has a cup of espresso. And he pinches my ass every time I come in."
After getting your ass pinched by Pino (if you're that lucky), step across the street to Joe's Dairy, another treasure that has somehow survived the years. At Joe's you can get a sandwich, and you can also get homemade mozzarella. New York Daily Photo estimates that Joe's produces nearly a ton of cheese each day.
Fresh mozzarella tastes great just eating it right out of your hand. Better yet, enjoy it with a hunk of bread and salami. That's a moveable feast right there.
Stumbling on this neighboring pair of classics feels like discovering a hidden motherlode. Each seems to be preserved in amber, unchanged over the decades. Is this little chunk of Sullivan Street a magical vortex of anti-gentrification? Let's hope it stays that way.
See all my pics of Pino's and Joe's here