Esposito, Giovanni & Sons
500 Ninth Ave.
at W. 38th St.
Ninth Avenue, going north starting at West 38th Street, is a Manhattan cook's neighborhood. The avenue is lined with ethnic markets and sources for rare and quotidien ingredients. This stretch of food shopping is anchored at the south end by Giovanni Esposito & Sons Meat Shop. They have been in business since 1890 and today the shop is still run by an Esposito, Robert Esposito who is third generation.
This is a real butcher that sells first-rate quality at excellent prices. The store sells all types of meat and poultry but they are probably most visited for their pork products. The store is long and narrow, with windows facing West 38th Street on one side and along the other side is a glass case with racks of spare ribs, poussins (at half the price charged uptown), and beautiful pieces of beef, lamb and pork. The men behind the counter are real professionals who can help you make a choice and then know what to do with it.
What to avoid:
Not really a matter of avoiding, but this butcher is not a charcuterie so even though they have noble Italian roots, this is not the place to get a big selection of hams and cheese.
What to know:
Okay, it can be inconvenient to get to this part of town. But it is very much worth the journey. Visiting the store is also inspiring and as you wait your turn you can talk with the other customers who are all also serious home cooks. On my last visit there I chatted with a customer who was buying the ingredients (including a piece of plain and simple pork fat) to make his own sausage. His list of ingredients would result in batches of pork, kielbasa and merquez (lamb) sausage. Given the quality of the sausage and sold at Esposito's this may be a bit like gilding the lily, but we city home cooks can be seriously inspired by our merchants, so why not?