Several years ago, while working as a line cook in a New York City restaurant, I tasted a salami unlike any I'd ever come across. Called cacciatorini, it was a rustic, cured pork sausage with a strikingly complex flavor and a surprising tanginess. "What part of Italy is this from?" I asked the chef. "The part that's 17 blocks from here," he replied. The salami had come from Salumeria Biellese, a small producer and purveyor of cured meats located in the Chelsea neighborhood, where proprietor Marc Buzzio's family has been selling some of the best sausages in America since 1925.
The Buzzios hail from the Italian province of Biella, near the French border, and when Marc's father, Ugo, moved to New York, he brought recipes for sausages like boudin blanc and soppressata with him and started selling them in the shop and to local restaurants. Marc has continued to develop relationships with some of the city's best chefs and worked with them to re-create old-world specialties that have not been widely available in the United States, such as guanciale (cured pork jowls), which the shop makes for the chef Mario Batali.
Salumeria Biellese now sells nearly 80 types of sausages and meats, but its dry-cured varieties are the standouts. Unlike most commercial sausages, these are not pasteurized but, rather, are dry-cured the old, slow way. The meat is mixed with salt and spices, stuffed into natural casings, and hung in an aging room where beneficial bacteria have developed over the years and contribute to the nuanced taste of the meat. With time, the sausages dry and ripen and acquire layers of savory flavor. "It's not about volume or speed," Buzzio says of his ancient trade. "We're completely in the 19th century as far as the product is concerned, and we're proud of it." Salumeria Biellese's cured meats cost between $5 and $24 per pound. To order, call 212/736-7376 or visit www.salumeriabiellese.com.