In the old Italian South Village, St. Anthony of Padua church stands on the corner of Sullivan Street and Houston Street, an anchor for the vibrant community of Italian immigrants who settled in this neighborhood over 100 years ago.
Nestled two doors south of the church on Sullivan Street is the venerable Pino Prime Meats, one of this year’s Village Award winners. Recently we visited the store to meet brothers Leo and Sal, and the man whose footsteps they follow, their father Pino.
Pino was raised on a farm in Italy. He came to America on his honeymoon and has resided here ever since (his son says that he loves to remark, “I’m still on my honeymoon!”). In 1978 Pino took over the butcher shop from his friend Mario. Leo told us that his entire extended family is comprised of butchers. “Grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins – even the women! They’re all butchers.”
“We like to stick to the old way of doing things,” says Leo. “We’re a specialty shop.” Whenever possible, meats are locally sourced. Every evening, they shave a layer of wood off the butcher block. Hence the sawdust on the floor. Pino’s is a true neighborhood institution and a dying breed. The family is warm and welcoming. Our colleague Elizabeth says, “It’s my new favorite place in New York, and I don’t even eat meat!” No wonder this place appeared in such films as The Godfather, Part II and in The Pope of Greenwich Village.
Last year, together with several neighborhood residents and customers, Pino & his family successfully fought off a rent increase that would have forced them to close. A petition was started, and over 1,000 people signed it. They were able to sign a five-year lease, so are safe for another four years. But they can’t be certain they’ll survive another threat and are anticipating another battle.
Also last year, neighbor Joe’s Dairy (another old Italian South Village holdout) closed. “We used to trade meat for cheese every holiday,” said Leo. “We miss them.”
Did you rsvp for this year’s Annual Meeting & Village Awards yet? This celebration of Greenwich Village will be held on Monday, June 16th starting at 6:30 P.M. at The Auditorium at The New School. You must have a confirmed reservation to attend.