Before Greenwich Village was filled with designer clothing shops and trendy restaurants, it was packed with small dairy shops, mom-and-pop grocers, and butcher shops where customers and owners knew each other well because they saw each other just about every day. Pino Prime Meats is one of those—a century-old butcher shop with a hand-lettered sign and sawdust on the floor (nightly shavings from the butcher block) that offers well-sourced, fresh, flavorful, and beautifully cut meats, and that defies the odds of the neighborhood. And owner Pino Cinquemani’s customers are so loyal they helped him and his sons, Leo and Sal, hold onto the shop in 2013 when they were faced with a major rent increase. Pino’s was awarded the 2014 Greenwich Village Historic Preservation award.
But about the meat: well-marbled aged beef and Parma ham and tender pork and lamb, in cuts from steaks to chops to roasts to anything a customer needs (or that Pino suggests, and he does; it’s the advice people come for). Born and raised on an Italian farm, Pino comes from generations who practiced his craft. “Grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins—even the women! They’re all butchers,” says son Leo, who, with Sal, carries on the tradition.
The tiny butcher shop may be colorful—it has been shot for scenes in films The Godfather, Part II and The Pope of Greenwich Village—but it’s for Pino, Leo, and Sal that customers come. As Pete Wells said, in a story for Food & Wine magazine, “To watch Pino in action is to see an uncanny blend of brute strength and magic.”
Pino Prime Meats: 149 Sullivan Street; 212-475-8134 (no website).