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Albanese Meats
Photograph: Time Out/Ann Sullivan

Local legend Moe the Butcher passes away from complications due to coronavirus

Emma Orlow
Written by
Emma Orlow

Local legend Moe Albanese, a.k.a. “Moe the Butcher” has passed away due to complications related to Covid-19. His 96th birthday would’ve been next week, on April 15th. 

Albanese Meats & Poultry has been a Nolita fixture since opening in 1923. Today, it is considered to be the last remaining butcher shop in the area. The small business has appeared as a set for Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and on the cover of Time Out New York’s mom-and-pop issue last year (shot by photography duo, James and Karla)—but it is Albanese himself that has remained a beloved icon. 

According to Foods of NY, a New York tour company focused on the city’s food history, “Both Moe and his mother, Mary, were born on this very block. His father emigrated from Sicily and when he opened the shop, Moe’s mother took the orders because she spoke English. She eventually became skilled enough at butchering that she taught Moe and his brother when his father died young.” 

Currently, the shop is closed due to mandates surrounding the pandemic. The team had posted in March that they hoped to safely reopen for Albanese’s upcoming birthday. 

His granddaughter, Jennifer Prezioso confirmed the news of his hospitalization on Instagram, writing: “Moe is certainly a fighter and has been through more than you or I ever could. I just wish I was there to hold his hand, to stroke his forehead, to lay in bed with him, like I have been for the past two weeks as we recovered together.” Dozens of users have already commented on the posts, professing how much they’d miss him—renowned New York City butcher, Cara Nicoletti (who recently launched her own sausage brand, Seemore), wrote on her account: “You brought us all so much joy.” 

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Let me paint you a picture this morning with my words. It’s 6:00am and the birds are chirping. He finally retired. And they’re all so happy you could join them at last: “You finally showed up!” My grandmother has been patiently waiting for all these years, making a big pot of crab sauce like its 4th of July. Your mother, sitting in her chair outside “MOMO!” Vinny Vella in his. They pinch your cheeks. “Sheeny Moe where’ve ya been!” All your friends are there too, your uncles and cousins. Your grandfather making wine, playing cards. Your father. The whole family. Even the dogs. “A toast to Rudy!” They’ve been having the feasts up here all along and now the fireworks. They’re for you, San Gandolfo. La Marcia Reale begins to play with all the trumpets of heaven. And this time you know the words to sing. Because the best part is your memory is with you. I did a good job of hiding it from everyone, but only mom and I heard your cries in bed. The blessed mother answered your prayers and has given your mind back. “Long live the King! Viva l’Italia! Viva San Gandolfo!” You were alone on this earth for years, but as you would say to grandma, “Not yet Jen, not yet. They need me down here.” How selfish were we to keep him for so long.

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In the past few years, Prezioso joined the butcher shop, hoping to revitalize the space and continue its legacy among a younger generation. So many people, they come in and they’re just so nostalgic and it brings them back to a time when their family was a butcher or they had a place they went to,” she shared in an interview with The Villager in 2018. “And so, there’s something there that I’m trying to capture and capitalize on, in a small way, just so that we can keep the business afloat, because a lot of people don’t really cook anymore. A lot of people pass the store and think it’s closed, just because it looks so old. They’re like, ‘Oh it can’t be in business anymore.’ So right now, I’m in the stages of trying to get it out there.” In collaboration with her grandfather, she revamped the store’s interiors and worked with a local artist to hang felt sausage sculptures in the space. 

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Albanese’s passing is a painful reminder of the seriousness of the coronavirus and the importance of doing your part in practicing safe social distancing and staying at home, whenever possible. When the time comes for the shop to reopen, pay your respects to the family with a visit to the independently-owned business.

Albanese Meats & Poultry is located at 238 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10012. Time Out New York has reached out to Prezioso and did not hear back at the time of publishing.

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