My family has always had a theory that the uglier and more out of the way a restaurant, the better the food. When I was a kid, my dad was under the impression that there was nothing worth eating in our suburban Chicago town, so we routinely found ourselves at 65 Restaurant in Chinatown, which had a giant red and gold Buddha in the entrance and a wonton soup to which I compare all others.
I felt a little out of the loop when other kids would talk about eating deep-dish pizza from our local Giordano’s chain, but we had Buffo’s; a sleazier, wood-paneled joint 45 minutes from home with decidedly better pizza. While it used to annoy me, I’ve come to embrace the theory wholeheartedly as I’ve gotten older. It’s no secret that restaurants that look like they’ve stood the test of time tend to serve great food, or maybe food just tastes better when you have to work a little for it.
Either way, Salumeria Biellese is one of those places. If it weren’t for the sun-faded press clippings and awards plastered all over one of the font windows, you could walk by every day and not realize that it offered anything to distinguish it from the hundreds of other generic corner delis in the city. It resides on a stretch of 8th Avenue below Penn Station with little to lure in crowds besides superior encased meats. While locavorism and slow food have become increasingly popular in recent years, Salumeria Biellese has been making its own cured meats and sausages since 1925. They expanded operations to New Jersey a few years ago, but local family farms continue to supply all of their meat (mainly Berkshire hogs), and the salumi are based on traditional Piedmontese recipes.
Ask one of the men working behind the glass cases of soppressatta and capicolla if they also make their own fresh mozzarella, and he is likely to stare at you blankly for a few seconds and say simply, â€œYes, everything.â€ What he’s actually thinking is, â€œHow else would we do it, you idiot?â€
All you need to do to understand why the dÃ©cor isn’t a priority here is order a sandwich — and don’t get too fancy. Stick with mozzarella, olive oil, and one of the salumi on crusty Italian bread. That’s it. This sandwich is one of those examples of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, though each part is actually pretty incredible on its own. Salumeria Biellese makes a damn good prosciutto with crunchy little salt granules lacing the edges, to which their delicate, fluffy mozzarella is a perfect foil. Sitting in there eating this sandwich, the room transforms into a thing of beauty. Of course, you could also do what one woman did when I was there a few weeks ago. Clearly on a mission from the faraway land of suburbia, she double parked her Lexus SUV and ran into Salumeria Biellese for a chicken parm with spaghetti to go. After cutting it up into pieces, she returned to her car to enjoy it alone before trekking back home. My dad would be proud. –KATE DULIN
Comments on “Cured Meat for the Soul | Salumeria Biellese”
“Ask one of the men working behind the glass cases of soppressatta and capicolla if they also make their own fresh mozzarella, and he is likely to stare at you blankly for a few seconds and say simply, â€œYes, everything.â€ What heâ€™s actually thinking is, â€œHow else would we do it, you idiot?â€ – That’s priceless… Good read, thanks.
Best in town.
You made me very hungry here, I went down to my local Italian deli however, a NY deli and a Minnesota Deli are quite different places… please feel free to UPS Next Day a sandwich anytime you feel the need!
Never tire of things like this- great zamboni sees more places like this in the future (:
They produce good guanciale and bresaola too and if you buy it from them directly you can save versus paying the extortionate pricing of folks like Dean & Delucca and Bedford Cheese Shop etc whom also sell it
My dad is the same as far as ‘uglier out of the way = great food’. We eat here religiously. Check out http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/elias-corner/ in Queens. Best fish ever.
mankes me want to live in the US, hard to find places like that in England..
Don’t know about you, but we used to love getting those 6 foot heros for big celebrations. There was nothing like rolling up somewhere with the back seat of the station wagon down to accommodate a couple of those monsters.
I went on many first dates at the Deerbrook Mall Buffo’s… thanks for taking me back. Great post!
Here in St. Louis, we have a neighborhood called “The Hill” where all the Italian immigrants settled in STL. It was recently featured in a NYtimes article.
Anyway, in its less than one square mile of area there are 32 delis, sandwich shops and restaurants all family owned located in the neighborhood. There are quite a few delis that could give this place a run for its money and with the exact same characteristics described in the article. Its one the of the best places in the city, with some of the finest food in the city.
Glad to see there are other places around with similar delis.
Small thought when you mentioned your family driving into Chinatown: have you read the short story “Paper Lantern” by Stuart Dybek? Published back in ’95, but it still echoes in my head. You can find it here: http://www.jrobertlennon.com/weird/lantern.pdf
Love your site. Keep it up.
wow…so special post..
Kate! I’m going there today. Thank you and
Buffos? Man, I ate at Buffos in Highwood (Lowwood as it was known) for almost 20 yrs. Best (and cheapest) pizza in Chicago and the north shore. Got to check out you’re rec. Can’t get decent deli meats except at Fairway and the lines are too damned long and old.
http://www.salumicuredmeats.com/ I think you’ll recognize the family name…
Damn, I’ve been looking for a place like this near MSG. Thanks! I will go tomorrow!
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