It’s a cold, dreary morning on the corner of a residential street in east Williamsburg. Inside a two-story brick building, Gennaro “Jerry” Virtuoso is ripping apart day old bread that has been soaked in water. These bread crumbs are then added to a large bowl of ground and cut beef that, after a stint in a 500-degree over, will become some of the best meatballs this side of New England.
Tan and tall with darker-than-dark black hair, Virtuoso is owner and proprietor of Lorimer Market (620 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn; 718-389-2691), an Italian market that specializes in items like fresh cut beef, poultry, and prepared foods. The small store — with its three large deli cases and minimal decoration — looks like a place that’s been here for decades; in reality, this location opened in 2005. But Lorimer Market (originally Lorimer Meat Market) has really been around for more than 30 years; it was opened by Virtuoso’s father, Nicola, and used to be located just across the street.
Virtuoso grew up in the store and learned the business from a young age. He eventually attended culinary school, and then he his way through top kitchens around Manhattan and became a house butcher at the Waldorf Astoria. When he took over the family business, “I wanted the store to be a mix of something traditional and something new,” he says. ” I wanted to take my experiences and give people great quality food.” You see that today when a regular picks up avocado salad alongside four pork chops.
Virtuoso’s father is still around: “I come into the store whenever I feel like it,” says Nicola, who lives just down the street. He can often be found working beside his son, doling out advice on how to cook a rib eye on the grill or under a broiler.
Around noon, the lunch crowd starts forming inside the store, ordering meatball subs and the well-known San Gennaro sandwich, which is composed of homemade sausage with onions and peppers. “We want people to feel a part of something when they come here,” says Virtuoso. Lorimer Market’s loyal customer base of both old and young patrons suggests that he’s succeeding.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 4, 2014