There used to be four butchers on the stretch of Metropolitan Avenue around 75th and 78th streets, but only the “king” could survive.
Mario’s Meats and Deli, self-dubbed the “King of Italian Style Veal Cutlets and Homemade Sausage,” has been selling homemade sausages and meat butchered in-house since 1982. It embodies the idea of Middle Village as a small neighborhood, where residents come in to their local businesses not just for products, but for conversation.
Owner Joe DiGangi inherited the business from his father Mario after he died in 2011. Mario moved to America from Polizzi Generosa, Italy, in 1971 and worked at meat markets in Queens for 12 years before opening up his own.
DiGangi studied the art of butchery from watching his father. He said that since taking over the business, he’s tried to not to change it too much while catering to more of the high-end realm of artisanal meats. The front counter carries pieces from veal osso bucco to prime angus tomahawk and dry-aged steaks.
DiGangi said that while butchering meat in-house is more time-consuming, it allows him to a level of quality control that wouldn’t be otherwise possible.
“I know how fresh the meat is … If I look at a piece of meat hanging, I know exactly how fresh it is,” said Digangi.
DiGangi gets all his beef from a market in Hunts Point, where he meets local suppliers to handpick his cuts for the week. He said the sausage recipe came straight from Sicily. It’s remained unaltered from when his father first opened the store.
In addition to their famous sausages, the store makes other Italian delicacies and entrees. DiGangi said that their roasts are especially popular when the holidays come around, often attracting people from Long Island and the other boroughs.
As he showed QNS around the store, DiGangi couldn’t help but bump into customers who have been coming to the store for decades and ask them about their kids or their opinions on the cut of meat he had sent them home with the past week. He said it is the intimate connection with his customers that has maintained the success of the shop in the age of grocery apps.
“Everything is fresh. Everything is authentic — a lot of imported things,” said Ion Oltean, a doctor who drives down from Forest Hills Gardens regularly. “It’s also a great place to have a cup of coffee and be like, ‘How are you? How is everything?’ It’s like a family environment.”