I come from a long line of butchers going back to my great, great grandfather in Speyer, Germany who was born in the early 1800s. His son, my great grandfather, was a butcher – a slaughterer who was also a rabbi so he could bless and sell kosher meat. His son, my grandfather Max, was a butcher who immigrated to the US in 1890 when he was in his early 20s to start his own butcher shop. His son, my father Harold, was also a butcher. I’ve been a butcher for the last 50 years. I know about meat and poultry. I know how to butcher a side of beef, trim a rack of lamb, fillet a duck, cut up a chicken … or discretely make a pass at a customer. I love women almost as much as meat. They are one of my passions along with meat and singing (I have a night club act which I hope you will come and see sometime).
I started in the meat business when I was 11 years old, keeping the cash register in my father’s store on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. I looked out the windows onto that world 50 years ago and watched life go by and I’ve been doing it ever since. Sometimes I like what I see, sometimes not.
Back then, Jerome Avenue was a different world. It was mainly Italian but other nearby neighborhoods had a lot if Irish and Jews. Big, strapping Irish guys would come in on Saturdays and buy meat for the week: a Sunday roast, legs of lamb, meat for a stew. The Irish were some of the best customers we had. They knew exactly what they wanted. They would come with their order and if you tried to sell them something different there would be no sale. The Italian and Jewish women were from a different planet. “A quarter inch off here, take off the fat, no it’s too big, no it’s too small.” Eggs were 12 cents a dozen back then and men ruled the universe. It was a glorious era and, in a way, I’m still stuck in that time warp. My son Richie calls me “old school.”
I had another window on the world in my store on Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I was there for 30 years. Another kind of world came through my doors. Everyone came into my shop, not only to buy meat as good as it gets, but to learn how to cook it, learn how to serve it, learn how to create an unforgettable eating experience. My customers included Park Avenue doormen, Fifth Avenue matrons and Third Avenue shopkeepers. There were politicians, movie moguls and desperate housewives. They come to hang out, to hear me sing, to be entertained.
Now I’m on the Upper West Side. My elder son, Richie, has joined me in the business. He is the future and the one who is introducing our 4th window on the world – our new Website launching in January 2012. You can catch him any day in the shop except Saturdays – that’s when he takes off to coach the Columbia University football team. Sometimes you might even see my youngest son, Jimmy. He wants to be an actor. And you will always see Pepe at the shop. He has worked with me for 30 years and has never missed a day of work. I call him my wife.
Come to the shop and meet me and my family. Ask me about food, wine, life, love, anything at all. I have an opinion on anything. Just ask me. But most of all, I know food, good food. I enjoy cooking and eating and if you can’t enjoy those two things, then why is life worth living?
My name is Schatzie. I’m a butcher, I’m not a chef and I don’t speak French. But I do know a beautiful piece of meat when I see it.