Legendary Little Italy butcher Moe Albanese — known to most people as “Moe the Butcher” — has died from complications related to COVID-19, Time Out New York first reported. He was 95, and was set to celebrate his 96th birthday on April 15.
Albanese was a beloved figure in his neighborhood, and a constant presence at his shop Albanese Meats & Poultry on Elizabeth Street, along with his granddaughter Jennifer Prezioso, who worked with him. Prezioso first wrote about her grandfather being in the hospital due to the novel coronavirus just a couple of days ago on her Instagram account.
He was initially set to be discharged from the hospital earlier this week but then his condition worsened, Prezioso writes. She confirmed on her Instagram account that he died yesterday morning, writing “it’s 6:00am and the birds are chirping.He finally retired. And they’re all so happy you could join them at last.”
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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.
Albanese Meats & Poultry was opened by Albanese’s parents in 1923. His mother grew up on the block and his father was an immigrant from Sicily, according to Time Out. Albanese learned his butchering skills from his mother, and customers remembered him for his warmth, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail, including Eater critic Robert Sietsema who pondered whether Albanese’s porterhouse ribeye steak was the best in the city back in 2013 when he was writing for the Village Voice.
Albanese’s granddaughter joined the business a few years ago and helped modernize the business, according to Time Out. The butcher shop was even featured in a few episodes of Amazon’s the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as the butcher shop that the lead character Midge frequents.
The shop has been closed since March 16, when the shutdown on dining-in in the city went into effect due to the pandemic. Neighbors, though, have left flowers, candles, and letters in front of the entrance to the shop as a makeshift memorial, Bowery Boogie reports.
Albanese is now the latest New York City food industry figure to die from complications related to COVID-19. Trailblazing chef Floyd Cardoz died after testing positive for the virus on March 25, and restaurateur Andreas Koutsoudakis, who ran popular neighborhood diner Tribeca’s Kitchen, also died from the virus just a few days later.