Was it destiny that drew Steve Colabella to become a butcher? Perhaps. His dad was a butcher; his uncles were butchers. He began following his father to work and absorbing the tricks of the trade before he even learned his ABCs. Well, maybe not quite that young, but young enough that the first two knots he learned to tie were his shoelaces and proper butcher’s slip knot.
Today, he’s a partner with Bob Corton in Peconic Prime Meats—the petite but mighty little meat shop (located surf-and-turf style next to the Clamman in Southampton). But don’t let the square footage fool you. This 10-year-old filet of fancy has in-stock or will tout-de-suite special order any possible cut of meat you desire, and some you didn’t even know you desired.
“We make a lot of unique items; everything we do is kind of custom,” Colabella says. “It’s a craft-type place rather than a traditional butcher shop. We offer traditional items, but also special things.” Most of which he may well have fresh and ready, or can get for you within a day. For something really special, like geese, guinea hen, or whole pig, he asks that afford him a couple of day’s notice. Fair enough.
He also makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 or so different kinds of specialty sausage.
“Sometimes someone challenges me to make something crazy. Last summer, someone asked me to make a fried dill pickle and ranch dressing sausage,” he laughs. “We stopped counting how many we make.” The most popular versions, like sweet and hot Italian, sweet Thai chili chicken and bourbon bacon, are around at all times. But more often than not, he makes whatever he likes when inspiration strikes—sandwich flavors, meal flavors, herb mixes, spice mixes. “I make a chicken and waffle sausage, a chicken spinach and artichoke dip sausage, a Cuban sandwich sausage…”
But he’s always creating, treating the shop, he says, a lot like he’d treat his own kitchen. “It’s my own toy store of meat stuff! I’m always tinkering,” Colabella says.
And he’s certainly full of wisdom. We sat down with Colabella to get to the meat of the matter…
Southforker: What’s the biggest mistake customers make?
Steve Colabella: Sizing. They know their family better than we do, but we use a base to go off of for portioning. And that’s easier than going well, this guy’s 8 feet tall and he’ll eat a whole roast by himself! People often overbuy.
SF: What are the best cuts for a crowd?
SC: Each holiday has its own tradition, so this time of year is different from Thanksgiving, which is all turkeys and hams. Crown roast for a large crowd is awesome in lamb or pork. You can feed up to 10 people. With a prime rib, you can feed around 5 people, or with a 5 to 6 pound filet, you should be able to feed about 10 people.
SF: What’s the most impressive cut of meat?
SC: To impress, I would come up with something! We get creative here. I’ve done stuffed filet wrapped in pancetta or duck bacon with our famous stuffing inside—broccoli rabe, Asiago cheese and pancetta—or a rolled veal rib roast stuffed with filet mignon, pignoli nuts and toasted marjoram.
SF: What’s the most delicious, underrated cut?
SC: Terres Major. It comes off the shoulder. It’s a mix between filet mignon and flat iron. It’s got great marbling. I personally love it because of how versatile it is. Everyone will ask me what’s my fave cut but as soon as I like it, then word spreads and I have a shop full of people all saying, oh, I have to try that!
SF: If you’re having a cut deboned, do you recommend taking the bones and making stock?
SC: Of course! Don’t waste anything. I make mine with root vegetables, ends of vegetables, celery salt, regular salt, and I boil it overnight in the shop. If I’m at home, I’ll roast the bones first, too. Making your own stock out of what you’re eating is more connecting to the meal. Even if you get a little out of it, it’s worth having.
[Peconic Prime Meats is located at 235 North Sea Road, Southampton, 631-488-4697. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.]