Kyle Powell at Citarella’s Market in Red Bank shows PieHole some real-deal bacon. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)
By JIM WILLIS
No food is more debased than bacon. Certainly other food crimes abound: eggs are regularly subject to the atrocity of having their yolks forcibly removed before being whipped into the horror known as an egg-white omelet, or an enterprising chef may serve a mid-winter Caprese salad with a mealy, flavorless, pink imposter of a tomato.
But bacon — mankind’s crowing alchemic achievement of pig and smoke; indeed our pinnacle of pork preservation — is subject to a constellation of abuses on flagrant display at grocery stores on the Green and beyond.
Refrigerator cases scream with nightmares like “turkey bacon” or “pre-cooked bacon” (which frankly sounds like an Orwellian conceit to save us from the “trouble” of making bacon — these same hucksters are no doubt working on a way to bring babies into the world without the “trouble” of sex.) More →
Stuffing 50 or so pickled cherry peppers with proscuitto and provolone goes faster with an assist from helpful neighbor Marc Dostie. Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)
By JIM WILLIS
We’ve had our crop of cherry peppers from the backyard garden pickling in the refrigerator for a couple weeks now, and decided that it was high time we stuffed them with something to make them even more delicious.
Prosciutto-and-provolone-stuffed cherry peppers sounded like a good idea.
That one, a long red brick edifice, featured “ghost” signage for Citarella’s Meats and Deli and Wrigley’s spearmint gum. But it was not, as several readers assumed, on the side of the Citarella’s as we know it, on Prospect Avenue in Red Bank.
Kyle Powell shows of a well-trimmed Hanger Steak at Citarella’s Market in Red Bank. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)
By JIM WILLIS
As grilling season heats up, PieHole is checking in with area butchers to see what special cuts they like to set aside for themselves to bring home and put on their grills.
You are not going to find any of these shrink-wrapped in your local grocery store’s meat case. In fact, lesser-known cuts like these are exactly the reason PieHole prefers to shop at the Green’s local butchers: affordable, great tasting cuts that we’ve never heard of before.
This week, PieHole checks in with Kyle Powell at Citarella’s Market in Red Bank. Powell tells PieHole that one of his favorite cuts for the grill, the hanger steak, is a piece of meat that used to be ground up or just tossed aside.
PieHole recently picked up a sweet soppressata (approx $15 per pound) from the Prospect Avenue shop. At home, we put together a quick lunch with some pickled hot cherry peppers from this summer’s garden and a piece of cheddar leftover from a recent party.
The sign outside Citarella’s Market in Red Bank says it all. If you want a fresh turkey, the clock is ticking. Below, Kristian Bauman, meat manager at Sickles Market in Little Silver. (Photos by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)
By JIM WILLIS
Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away, and so now is the time to think about where you’re going to get your turkey for the big day.
If possible, you’re going to want to go with a fresh bird, not one that’s been doing hard, cold time frozen away in some industrial freezer.
“Sometimes those turkeys have been in the supermarket’s freezer for a year or so,” says Stew Goldstein, of Monmouth Meats in Red Bank. “The stores buy when the price is low, and then keep the birds in their freezers ’til it’s time to sell them. Who knows really how long it’s been in there?”
One thing dinner tables around the Red Bank Green can be thankful for is the number of options we have for getting fresh turkeys. Piehole checked in with three shops to talk fresh turkey.
Fourth-generation butcher Ralph Citarella, right, and long-time employee Kyle Powell carry on more than 113 years of meat-cutting tradition. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)
By JIM WILLIS
Just as in the Middle Ages, when last names like Baker, Taylor and Miller connoted the trade or profession of the family breadwinner, if “Citarella” were an occupation, it would now mean dude who knows meat.
In the late 1800s, Andrew Ralph Citarella left Naples, Italy, to settle in Red Bank, and soon began selling meat off of his front porch.
He learned to cut meat by just doing it, says Ralph Citarella, fourth-generation butcher and current owner of Citarella’s Market, on Prospect Avenue. Then he sent my great-grandmother [Carmela] to the meat houses [in Long Branch]. She learned the proper way, and then she taught him.
“So she taught my great-grandfather, and he taught my grandfather, and my grandfather taught my father, who taught me. Its like an apprenticeship. Its just years of a cutting apprenticeship.
From the front porch, the first Citarellas moved to a store on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank. Sometime later, the shop relocated to Sea Bright, where Ralphs grandfather and father, Andy, ran the business. The 1962 flood brought another relocation, to the Little Silver Shopping Center, where Andy ran the store. But in 1979, he had to get out of there, because at that time it was really run-down, and the rent was going up, so he moved the store” to its current location, said Ralph. “He moved a mile north, as he used to put it.
redbankgreen sat down with Ralph at a picnic table beside the store recently to talk about meat, sauce and what makes a 100- plus-year-old family business tick.
A Brooklyn native who now lives in East Brunswick, Goldstein, 53, has been in the trade since he was a teenager. And to revive its long-dormant Human Bites feature, redbankgreen took a few minutes recently to ask Goldstein about a lifetime of swing a meat cleaver.
Did you always know this is what you wanted to do for a living?
Yes. I never had any other jobs. This is what I enjoy. My father had a small family-style neighborhood store in downtown Brooklyn. He was in business for about 45 years.
Do you remember your first interaction with a side of beef?
My first interaction was when I was maybe eight, nine years old. I went to the wholesale market with my father.
What was that experience like for a kid?
You walk into a huge, refrigerated warehouse. The floor was wet and dirty things weren’t as clean as they are now. You had the carcasses, you got the smells. It was something I said I would never do. But I did. I knew nothing else.