Dan Packel discovers an old favorite in the Italian Market.
Growing up, their son, Domenick Crimi, also worked in the shop on the weekends. He remembers a time when butchers in the market used to be able to slaughter animals without inspection. "Around Easter time, we had a small livestock pen out in front," said Domenick. "They would put us in the pen, and we would ride on the lambs and goats like horses."
Crimi, like his two sisters and one brother, went to college. He then started a photo business, which he ran for 20 years before feeling the pull of the family business. He finally came on full-time to give his parents a break.
While Crimi was still at the photo shop, the fresh Italian sausages came to the forefront of the business. Until 25 years ago, Cappuccio's only sold hot and mild sausages, in addition to the steaks, roasts, pork, veal and high quality U.S. lamb which still make an important segment of their trade. In diversifying the product line, they first introduced the Chevalatta, stuffed with imported provolone and parsley and sold in thin spirals. It remains the top seller. But I have trouble picking up anything other than the Broccoli Rabe With Provolone: the runner-up in the sales category. The bitterness of the rabe married with the sharpness of the cheese proves the ideal complement to the carefully sourced pork butt.
In total, there are now 25 different flavors, including Sicilian liver sausage, Spanish-style chorizo and turkey sage sausages in both hot and mild. And now sausages make up 60 percent of Cappuccio's business.
Clearly, to thrive over three generations, it helps to be able to innovate and focus on a new product niche. But stepping onto the original wood floor in the shop is a reminder that there's plenty of tradition here. Just ask Harry Crimi, on a day that he's behind the counter, about his 23 years as president of the South 9th Street Businessman’s Association, from the early 1970s to the 1990s. "All the presidents came down," he said. "I used to escort them down Ninth Street when they campaigned." For their sake, one can only hope he sent them back to Washington with a bundle of sausages.
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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