Flesh and Blood

Flesh and BloodFlesh and BloodFlesh and Blood

T wo framed commemorations hang outside the doors of Ferraro’s Market in Fair Haven. The first is a picture of Salvatore Ferraro Sr. accompanied by Psalm 23. The second is a poem—for Salvatore F. Ferraro Jr., at once solemn and hopeful—that ends with the words, “Our family chain is broken and / nothing seems the same, / but as The Lord calls us one by one, / the chain will link again.”

If you enter Ferraro’s Market to uncover the stories behind those plaques, you walk directly into Ferraro’s forte: the meat section. It takes up approximately a third of the store’s floor space, but, distracted from your mission, you may end up spending a good deal more than a third of your time there. It’s a veritable museum of meat.

Familiar patterns of nature can be seen in the bodies of animals: cow tripe’s honeycomb geometry, marbled cuts of steak, pork shoulders as smooth as opal and red as lightly cooled magma. When severed from the tendons and bones and brains that moved them, the animals’ once-powerful muscles are easily restrained by plastic wrap.

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Behind the meat counter, Michael Sarno energizes the cool market air with the feel of an auction house in the heat of a bidding. He calls out deals: “I’ve got good price on skirt steaks, rib-eye butter steaks, pork loin cuts…” He can be heard throughout the store, no microphone needed.

Many supermarkets have deals on pre-packaged meat bundles, but Ferraro’s lets you assemble your own. Choose from gourmet burgers, franks, veal, lamb, kebab, beef liver, pig’s feet, neck bone and more, then bring your bundle to Sarno. He’ll discount the labeled price on the spot and—when the spirit moves him—he may even throw in some free cuts.

Sarno adds a bit of excitement—and some appreciable savings—to the grocery store experience. He’s worked with the Ferraro family for the past 20 years and remembers both Salvatore Ferraro and his eldest son, Salvatore Jr., with fondness. Sarno points to a picture of the junior Ferraro attached to the front of his meat scale. “That was him every night before closing, thinking what he was going to improve on the next day.”

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Salvatore Ferraro Sr. entered the grocery business in 1952 by opening Mohawk’s Market on State Street, then opened Ferraro’s at its current Grand Avenue location in 1973. In the meantime he married his wife, Joan Ferraro, and they had four sons together: Salvatore, John, Peter and Mark, all two years apart, starting in 1961.

All four boys grew up working at their father’s market, and though Ferraro Sr. wanted them to go to college, they insisted on contributing to the family business instead. It was expected that the eldest, Salvatore Jr., would take over management from his father. Then, in 2010, the younger unexpectedly died.

At the end of his life, he was a well-known and much-loved presence at the market, overseeing all the store’s departments on a daily basis. A poster mounted on a column above the meats signed by family and employees reads: “We will miss your kindness … passion … spirit … dedication … You will always be missed. Work will never be the same.” The loss was deeply felt by his father, who passed away two years later.

While the market may never be the same as it once was, the sense of family, at the very least, remains palpable at Ferraro’s. The market rests in the good hands of the remaining Ferraro brothers, whom you’ll find hard at work every day, either hand-cutting meats or minding the shop.

But there’s another sense of family at work here. The market is staffed by longtime employees, many of whom—like Sarno—have worked at Ferraro’s for more than a decade. One worker, first name Martine, has been on the floor for 20 years, and another, first name Zofia, has been at Ferraro’s for 12, now captaining the seafood counter. “For an old lady I’m doing alright,” she jokes. Bob Silver, another long-term employee who left to work at Stop & Shop and then returned, says: “The owners are good people. We have fun and we make money. There’s almost no turnover.”

So while the Salvatores are gone, their shared spirit is kept alive by those who knew them best. It can be found in John, Peter and Mark, and in a familiar and welcoming staff, and at the meat counter itself, from which Salvatore Jr. used to survey the store at closing, and over which Sarno’s operatic voice continues to boom: “I’ve got good prices on ribs, sirloin steak, ‘Fireman’s thick-cut’…”

Ferraro’s Market
664 Grand Ave, New Haven (map)
Mon-Sat 8:30am-6pm
(203) 776-3462 | ferrfoods@yahoo.com
www.ferraromarket.com

Written and photographed by Daniel Shkolnik.

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Daniel is an aspiring novelist. He owns a Yale sweater he will never wear and takes his Faulkner with vermouth and his vermouth with an orange wedge. An avid traveler and retired hooligan, he was kicked out of the largest club in Africa for breakdancing, joined an Andalusian metal band and, while in Istanbul, learned to read the future in his coffee grinds. Despite the omens he finds at the bottom of his morning joe, Daniel continues to write.

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