Growing up, the meat and deli business was Gennaro Virtuoso’s life. For 30 years, his father, Nicola, owned the Lorimer Meat Market. These days, the son continues his family’s legacy of providing quality food, but with a broader menu and a shorter name.
Six years ago, Virtuoso took over the business, renaming it Lorimer Market, to appeal to changing attitudes regarding food consumption in the neighborhood. “We wanted [the market] to be more friendly,” he said. “[The older name] implies that we only sell meat and deli items. I wanted to open it up to a different world and say it was a marketplace, and that not only could you get meats, but that there are also veggie options and natural items.”
Salads, soups, and pastas are all on the menu, but Lorimer Market’s specializes in paninis and sandwiches. Virtuoso says that his sandwiches are carefully prepared with a lot of thought and love. “It’s a bit more personal than going into your local supermarket or Dean and Deluca where you get pre-packaged sandwiches,” he said.
The sandwiches and paninis carry creative names, such as “The Old Man and the Sea,” made of Italian tuna, red onion, and capers, and “The Rat Pack,” a combination of cappicola, prosciutto di parma, soppresata, roasted red peppers, and provolone. The “Michelle My Bell” panini, is stuffed with chicken cutlet, smoked mozzarella, and roasted red peppers and the “NYPD,” a hot hero, contains grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, and hot cherry peppers.
In addition to growing up in the business, Virtuoso was a banquet butcher at the Waldorf Astoria, worked at Bolo, Bobby Flay’s old establishment, and graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education. He uses his knowledge to make his favorite dishes, one of which is a chicken meatloaf with carrots and onions. The owner takes pride in the fact that his food is fresh and prepared right in the shop. He prepares many of Lorimer Market’s ingredients from scratch, such as the pesto, roasted peppers, and marinated eggplant. Even the bread is made locally by Napoli Bakery.
Although Lorimer Market plans to buy chicken and beef locally, at the moment, the former is purchased from Bell & Evans and their Black Angus beef is shipped in from Texas. “The beef we’re getting is the kind they supply Peter Luger’s or Smith and Wollensky,” said Virtuoso. “It’s a higher end quality beef.”
Over the past six years, Virtuoso has seen the neighborhood and economy change, leading to a different kind of clientele. However, even in difficult times, Lorimer Market is thriving, a fact the owner attributes to their dedicated customers. In the end, it’s all about the job itself, and the rewards it offers. “If you love what you do, you don’t work a hard day in your life. That’s how I feel. I always enjoy what I do.”
620 Lorimer Street