A giant fiberglass pig in chef's clothing stands proudly at the door of G. Esposito and Sons Jersey Pork Store in Brooklyn, New York, simultaneously welcoming customers and warning away miscreants. When I step inside, the relative quiet is pierced by a wailing band saw, manned by a stocky, grey-haired butcher breaking down a pork loin into thin, even chops.
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I post up beneath a canopy of salami and when the sawing stops, I inquire about one of the house specialties, prosciutto bread, prominently displayed atop the butcher's case. The butcher responds curtly, talking as much with his hands as with his words, “So you wanna talk about prosciutt' bread?”
I do, and soon we're deep into our shared favorite subject: food.
George Esposito and his brother, John, took over the store after their dad, Frank, passed away in 2004. Frank's father established the store in 1933, adding the word “Jersey” to the name to indicate the origin of the hogs they butchered, which came from New Jersey and were, at the time, considered particularly high quality.
Prosciutto bread, studded with prosciutto, salami, and other cured cuts of pork, has long been a staple here; early on, it was a good way to use up odds and ends of cured meats, but the bread soon graduated from a landing place for scraps to a marquee item. The crew at Esposito's makes five to 25 loaves most days and up to 100 loaves a day around the holidays.
In recent years, the number of butcher shops in the neighborhood has declined tremendously. Court Street was once filled with them, but by Esposito's account, about 15 have closed in the last decade alone.
Prosciutto BreadWhy just pile cured meats atop your bread when you can embed them deep within?
He hands me a few slices of homemade salami and warms up a couple of arancini (fried risotto balls) that he says have been voted the best in the city. I speak with a customer who's buying some frozen stuffed rigatoni, and she tells me openly, “The neighborhood is happier because they're here.”
Later, I share her sentiment with Esposito and he shrugs modestly. “Personality and quality. That's what we got.”