Dan Packel discovers an old favorite in the Italian Market.
The labels in the window captured my attention as I worked my way along the crowded sidewalk, hemmed in by the vegetable vendors to the right. Broccoli Rabe with Provolone. Sicilian Sausage with Wine. Chevalatta? When I moved back to Philadelphia, I hadn't been to the Italian Market in years. The sensory overload wasn't entirely surprising. Still, I couldn't help but be intrigued by the descriptors sitting in front of the plump, coiled sausage links, enclosed in natural casings.
But I'd be naive to think that Cappuccio's Meats on Ninth Street was a real discovery. On a strip that's diversified well beyond its origins as the province of Italian immigrants, Cappuccio's represents a direct link to the early days of the market, when the families of proprietors just arrived from Sicily lived directly above their storefronts. One of these immigrants, Domenico Cappuccio, who came to Philadelphia from Messina with a second grade education in the early 1900s, got his start in the market in the same way that many others did: by working in shop that had already been established.
Domenico met his future wife Katerina while working for her family selling fruit and vegetables off a cart. In 1920, over a momentous series of days, they got married, bought the building on Ninth Street, had a reception the next day and then opened the butcher shop.
Walk in today, and you can often see Domenico and Katerina's daughter, Antoinette Crimi, behind the counter. Born directly upstairs in 1926, she started working in the shop on days off from school. She'll generally be joined by her husband Harry, who was born in Atlantic City, N.J., and studied accounting before learning to butcher.
The world of artisanal food production tends to attract dreamers, misfits and others just disinterested in following an unswerving path through life. It’s as if it’s almost a requirement. Michael Dolich himself got a law degree and worked as a trial lawyer, doing personal injury cases and mediation. Now he's making some real bread.
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