On a chilly Saturday afternoon in Mid-November, Antoinette was aglow amidst the shop’s weekend tourist bustle. She greeted a procession of regulars, many of whom continued their family’s tradition of shopping at the store. Fresh from her weekly visit to a salon in Center City and wearing a dark, patterned sweater matching her husband’s, her smile pulled newcomers into the fold as her hands moved about their automatic work of tying the city’s best sausage upon one of two ageless butcher’s blocks by a cash register right out of a scene in Boardwalk Empire.
“Harry—get Harry—she’s from Atlantic City,” she says after greeting a woman in her early 40s.
Standing on the original white and black checkered floor near the entrance, the opposing metal and glass cases wrap around to a right angle before reaching a more massive butcher block that you navigate by on the way to that back kitchen. During these rushes, it’s not uncommon to see Domenick, his brother Harry, or staff members such as Jimmy Stewart calling upon insanely sharp knives to render thick slabs into personalized cuts.
“Nearly everything’s cut to order,” Jimmy says when I ask what makes the shop different from others. Indeed, besides a few display cuts, I watch as piece after piece is personally severed from cuts that are at times a foot thick.
“The service—you come here, we never forget,” Antoinette adds in moments before diving in with another set of customers.
“And you use all the old school recipes,” Stewart adds.
“All our recipes, they haven’t changed,” she says of sausages—broccoli rabe or white wine with provolone; their insanely delicious breakfast sausage with apples caramelized into a near maple syrup—that brilliantly interweave spices and herbs with richly flavorful pork blends.
While sausage is what Cappuccio’s is most known for, the curious glances of a kid outside the shop window speaks to everything else they have to offer, let alone the immigrant traditions they’ve maintained. As Antoinette and Harry assist Harry Jr. in helping customers, I watch as the kid snaps photos of a comb of tripe, a hanging side of goat, and chunks of lamb shoulder from out on the sidewalk.
“The tripe—it’s a delicacy,” Harry Sr. says before Antoinette tells me of the incredibly simple cooking process. The tripe is boiled with aromatics (bay leaves and black pepper) before being cut it into slender bands and simmered in gravy.
As for other nods to their Sicilian heritage?
Both Domenick and Antoinette are quick to mention a Sunday gravy that can include pig’s feet, pig skin braciole, pig tails, and pork spare ribs [See below for the recipe along with one for baked lamb’s head].
“We loved it,” Antoinette says of having these odder parts in family staples. “It was the younger generation—you had to take things out [like the pig tails her daughter didn’t like] for them. Suddenly, the kids in the neighborhood wanted steak and potatoes.”
It wasn’t until high school that Antoinette first learned how Americanized families ate. As someone who didn’t speak English until entering grade school, this was a learning curve their family resisted.
“What’s this?! I said when my cousin first started getting American [sliced] bread. We always got Italian bread like when I was in school,” she says, alluding to trips to the now defunct Marinelli’s.
The days preceding Easter were when 9th St. most conspicuously came alive with old world traditions. As with other shops, Cappuccio’s would have a pen out in front of their store holding lambs and young goats.
“Harry and Domenick, they’d get in the pen and play with them,” Antoinette says.
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