At first glance the nondescript storefront at the southeast corner of 29th Street and Eighth Avenue is indistinguishable from hundreds like it all over the city: steam tables, a cold case of Snapples and sodas, and two guys behind the counter furiously making sandwiches. So I wouldn’t blame the uninitiated serious eater for walking right past it come lunchtime.
But believe me when I say that walking past Salumeria Biellese would be a serious mistake. Why? Because inside that storefront, down in the basement, some of the greatest salumi and fresh sausage makers in the country have been doing their thing since 1925, and they’re still at it.
With all the salumi talk these days revolving around Bar Boulud, it’s easy for the master sausage craftsmen at Biellese to get lost, but between the families of two of the owners, Mark Buzzio and Paul Valetutti, there’s well over a hundred years of sausage-making know-how. It’s put to use in all kinds of delicious ways at the deli and the adjoining restaurant Biricchino.
After waiting in what is never an insanely long line, order any sandwich made with copa, capicola, Genoa salami, sweet soppresata, mortadella or the housemade mozzarella. All of the above (except the mozzarella, obviously) are made with phenomenal Berkshire pork that Buzzio and Valetutti buy from a farmers’ co-operative in Iowa. In their hands this meat is transformed into wonderful pork deliciousness in many forms. That transformation is made manifest with the aid of salt, pepper, fennel, garlic, air and that most miraculous ingredient of all, time.
If for some baffling reason you don’t want to eat the Biellese salumi there are a couple of other fine options. Every day the Biellese meat magicians also make custom fresh sausages for some of the city’s best restaurants. Whatever’s not sold to restaurants is available simply grilled in a sandwich: one day you might find a superb merguez sausage, the next a hot chicken-and-jalapeño natural-casing beaut. On Tuesdays they make a delicious, incredibly moist, boned-out whole turkey and on Thursdays they make a mean roast pork.
The only problem with the Salumeria Biellese sandwiches is the hero bread. It’s a little bit better than the typical cottony bread used at your neighborhood deli, but not by much. To combat this dire situation we at Serious Eats World HQ (strategically located a mere two blocks from Biellese) bring our own stirrata from Sullivan Street Bakery, which the fellows behind the counter at Biellese are happy to use. This bread exchange gives a whole new meaning to BYOB.
Photo credit: Michael Harlan Turkell.