happiness is a meat order from your family’s butcher

Cappuccio’s on 9th Street in Philadelphia. That is the Italian Market to the rest of you.

This was the Saturday morning destination at least twice a month when I was growing up, even when we moved to the Main Line.

And yes, my family has been going here since before my grandfather Bill Zambelli put the abattoirs in this butcher shop.

Cappuccio’s was opened in 1920. Here is their story from their website:

Domenico Cappuccio was born on his family’s farm in Messina, Sicily during the late 1800’s. After his father passed away when he was in 2nd grade, Domenico was forced to leave school to help work the family farm. In 1910, as the rumblings of World War I began in Italy, Domenico decided it would be wise to join his brother in America. However, he was still drafted and this time would be asked to fight for the Americans.

Following his service, Domenico was offered a path to citizenship if he could find an American sponsor. After working several jobs in Southern New Jersey, Domenico ended up in Philadelphia’s Italian Market where he met a man who offered to provide him with sponsorship. This man, Charles Guinta, not only sponsored Domenico but gave him a job in his butcher shop and a place to stay above.

While working at the butcher shop, Domenico met his future wife, worked a fresh produce stand also in the Italian Market. After several years, Mr. Guinta felt that Domenico was ready to go out on his own and suggested he start his own shop down the street. After getting married, he took Guinta’s advice and opened up Cappuccio’s Meats at its current location. The couple would have three children, one of whom, Antoinette Cappuccio, would go onto run the shop with her husband Harry Crimi.

After Domenico retired, Harry and Antoinette Crimi took over Cappuccio’s Meats and continue to run the business today using the family’s traditional values with their son Dominic Crimi.

Now the funny thing about World War I bringing Domenico Cappuccio to the United States is it also played a role in my paternal grandfather’s life.

When my grandfather was a little boy, his mother who had emigrated to the USA as a young woman, took a ship back to Italy so her family still in Italy could meet her son. The problem was, World War I broke out when they were there and they had to stay with family in a little village until the was was over and Trans-Atlantic ship travel resumed.

My grandfather, a little, little boy, was called l’Americano by the villagers during that time. He went on to build a boiler company and factory. During World War II the company had to change it’s name to seem more American- people being suspicious of people born in other countries is sadly nothing new in this country. Both of my grandfathers (my maternal grandfather was Irish) were discriminated against.

But I digress.

Cappuccio’s is a familiar and well-loved place for me. Going there and to the Italian market with my father on weekends was sort of magical.

The ding of the bell on the door and you walk in and there was sawdust on the floor and sometimes sides of meat hanging from a hook in the window. I would sit on a barrel next to one of the front windows and watch everyone get waited on. The counters were wide and clean, knives in holders in between the counter sections.

Sometimes old Domenico would talk to me half in Italian and half in English. He had glasses with big black rims and a very sweet smile. Sometimes his daughter Antoinette who married Harry Crimi (who was close to my father’s age) would let me come back behind the sales floor.

My father and Harry would patter back and forth in English and Italian about whatever daddy was buying. I loved going there. I would watch as Harry would sharpen a knife to cut whatever we were buying. And then each item would get wrapped in butcher paper, marked, and placed in paper sacks, or a box depending on the size of the order.

As I grew up, I watched Harry’s son Domenick , who is about my age and whom I know as an adult, come up in the business. Now he runs the store!

A few weeks ago I got to thinking about the Italian sausage we used to buy there. My great aunts, grandparents, and my parents all made sauce (or gravy) with it. It is the best sausage you have ever tasted made the old school way with fennel.

I also started thinking about the other cuts of pork, beef, and lamb we used to get from Cappuccio’s. So I contacted Domenick and asked him if I could get an order – but it would have to be shipped or delivery because 9th Street is just a wee bit out of the way living in Chester County.

So Domenick said for me if I was willing to pay a delivery fee, he’d deliver.

My order got delivered a little while ago. All neatly and perfectly wrapped in brown butcher paper and bags with wire-tied tags with my name on it. Just like when I was a kid!

It sounds silly to some I am sure but this? This makes me happy. A piece of 9th Street in my freezer. And Domenick even bought me a bag of lamb neck bones- the best secret ingredient of any Sunday Pasta Sauce!

I mean no disrespect to my lovely local butcher, Worrell’s, but Cappuccio’s and me? We’ve got history! So I am going to be splitting my love going forward.

Cappuccio’s is an amazing old school artisanal butcher shop. They have been doing it the same way since 1920. Give them a try, and if you live closer to them then I do, go visit!

Cappuccio’s updates their Facebook page often. Seriously? Visit them, try their meats. You’ll be glad you did 😊

We had fresh grilled sausage for dinner. It was just as awesome as I remember it.

pronouncing italian food should not sound like butchered pig latin

That is, or was, my grandmother Beatrice. I called her grandmom. One of the only photos I have of her. She was not considered the beauty of her sisters . That probably was my Aunt Millie or even my Aunt Rose. A very strong willed woman with a spine of steel. I look at her and see so much of my late father, and as I age, even myself. Especially as my hair grays.

I have written about my Italians before. They are very definite parts of my DNA. And the time I spent with my Italians as a child is burned in my brain. I loved my familial old people on both sides.

Even grandmom, except she was an acquired taste. I think she wasn’t so good with kids. But as an adult I enjoyed visits with her by myself. Without the stress of the fractured relationship my father had with his sister and brother. But that is a story for another day.

These Italian women were pretty amazing cooks. As a little girl I’d go to market with them and spend time in the kitchen. Especially at Millie and Josie’s house. They lived on Ritner Street in South Philadelphia. My grandfather Pop Pop who died when I was pretty little was also a good cook. He made a mean chicken salad. And grandmom made pizzelles among other things.

Aunt Millie and Josie had a little corner grocery store they preferred that I think they called “Anthony’s”….I have no idea of the actual name but I remember the old fashioned store with tall shelves of goods behind equally tall counters with glass front cases. And bins of whatever fresh or seasonal produce was available.

Then there were the trips to the Italian Market, only when I was growing up we called it 9th Street. I went to 9th Street with my parents and great aunts.

I loved that market growing up. Hawking fish and fruit and vegetables on the street. The original DiBruno Brothers, with it’s long and narrow store with sawdust on the floor and giant barrels of pickled things and meats and cheeses hanging from the ceiling and in the glass front cases. Buying meat and fresh made sausage at Cappuccio’s where family lore has it, my grandfather fabricated the abattoirs.

And at different times of year there was livestock in pens. Not to be forgotten were the old spice ladies in the spice store sort of across the street from DiBruno’s. I don’t remember the name of the store. What I remember is having to add up the totals of what you were buying because those little old ladies didn’t bat an eye when they would add on and additional dollar or two to the totals!

So I have these memories. Things were bought fresh, cooked fresh. Way before Whole Foods, Wegmans, and other than the Reading Terminal Market or Lancaster Central Market. Having your recipes in your head as you went to market, and you also cooked seasonally. DiBruno’s only had the little salted anchovies at certain times of the year and ditto with the fish mongers and smelts.

Intermingling Italian and English when shopping on 9th Street and Intermingling Italian and English in my great aunt’s kitchen.

Now that I have set the table of my past and sort of growing up pfoodie memories, I bring you back to today. I still like shopping fresh when possible and cooking seasonally in my own kitchen. The voices of my childhood kitchen experiences still live in my memories and sometimes I hear the long quiet voices if I am making gnocchi or Sunday pasta sauce. (Go ahead, click on the epicurious link as it’s one of my recipes and won me an Italian basket from them in a contest in 2005!)

So why this post?

I was enjoying having the time today to catch up on my growing pile of magazines. A friend of mine had gifted me the Fall 2018 Number 20 of edible PHILLY and I was giving it a try.

I will admit as a native born Philadelphian I have always rankled at the Philly of it all. To me it’s an unattractive diminutive. Our city, America’s birthplace of freedom has a lovely name. Phil-a-del-phia. It glides off the tongue. Why shorten it? There is no Baltimore-ie or New-y York-y so why Philly?

Sorry, not sorry, just a pet peeve.

Then there is the whole mispronunciation of Italian foods by non-Italians. I will stick to that and not even get into the gravy vs. sauce of it all. I call it tomato sauce. My great aunts and grandmother alternated between “gravy” and “sauce” but they were Italian, so papal dispensation.

Not so much leeway for pretend Italians who also make lovely food names sound like fractured and murdered Pig Latin. It’s like nails on a foodie chalkboard to me.

“Mozerel.” No, it is mozzarella. It’s a lovely cheese and a lovely name. Say the name.

“Proshoot” it is, for the love of God, prosciutto. Another lovely Italian food with a lovely Italian name, not a twisted basketball term.

But then there is the third one so often butchered. “Gabagole” or “Gabagool“. Don’t you mean, capicola? See how easy that was to say? Don’t gobble, pronounce it correctly.

If you go to Italy, they are NOT going to butcher the words. I have mainly heard this slang in the Philadelphia area, which almost makes sense, like it’s a perverse dialect or a bad accent that led to mispronunciation.

What does this have to to with edible PHILLY? Page 22 of the Fall 2018 print edition (I do not see it online yet.) The article is The Butcher & The Chef by Alexandra Jones. Totally interesting article until she lost me at page 28 at the end of the article. And there it was. GABA freaking GOOL.

So here I am, venting my Italian spleen. If you want to dish on Italian foods, cook Italian recipes…please pronounce things the right way. Write them the right way. Not like Pig Latin was murdered.

Capice?

Thanks for stopping by.