Mayor Pasquale Menna presented a proclamation to butcher Andy Citarella as a TV news crew recorded the event. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
With a handful of brokenhearted customers watching, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna bid an official goodbye to a 121-year-old neighborhood butcher shop Wednesday.
But the building that’s been home to Citarella’s Meats & Deli for the last 43 years may again draw foodies.
Angela Liberatore, left, who was not involved in the business, said she came out to “lend moral support” to her brother, butcher Andy Citarella, and their sister-in-law, Jeanne Citarella. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
As reported last week by redbankgreen, the Citarella family plans to close the tiny market July 9, ending a run began on Bridge Avenue in 1901.
Over the following decades, the family served customers from storefronts in Red Bank, Sea Bright and Little Silver before settling in Red Bank at its present location, at the corner of Prospect Avenue and McLaren Street, in 1979.
Menna, whose own late great uncle was also a West Side butcher in the early days of Citarella’s, said such shops served as “neighborhood living rooms” where customers shared news while picking up their groceries.
Menna told Andy Citarella his family’s shop was “part of the fabric of Red Bank,” and gave him a proclamation designating July 9 as Citarella Meats & Deli Day.
Among those on hand for the ceremony was Susan Marshall, who told redbankgreen that she continued shopping at Citarella’s even after moving from Red Bank to Neptune about two decades ago.
“I’m sad,” she said. “Not surprised, but sad. What am I going to do for my country ham? It’s the best ham. It’s not salty, it’s perfect. The meats are wonderful.”
Marshall was the second customer in a matter of minutes to wonder aloud where they might get their Christmas or Easter ham or Thanksgiving turkey.
Andy Citarella said he and his brother, Ralph, who operated the shop for many years but was unable to attend the ceremony, don’t know of any other butcher shop that’s been in the same family for 121 years.
“I’m not saying it’s not possible, but I don’t think there’s any place in New Jersey that old,” he said. “I would love to find out if there’s a family-owned butcher in this country that’t older than us.”
A Monmouth County filing last month says Michael Stavola holds a contract to buy the property for an undisclosed price. He has not replied to an inquiry about his plans.
According to Citarella, Stavola plans to create and operate an Italian specialties store “that will do many of the things we’ve been doing.”
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