The Local Butcher Shop
Walking into North Berkeley’s The Local Butcher Shop, white tiles gleam and butchers sporting bow ties move quietly behind the waist-high counter. Open just five months, the shop brings a low key approach to high quality meat in North Berkeley’s Gourmet Gulch neighborhood.
Husband and wife team Aaron and Monica Rocchino, he a former Chez Panisse Chef and she a catering veteran, originally conceived The Local Butcher Shop as a way to meet two needs: one, a way to build a life together without the brutal hours of the restaurant business and two, a way to bring quality, humanely raised meats to the neighborhood.
Inspired by Brooklyn’s Marlow & Daughters, they take the same thoughtful and accessible approach to meat. Clarifies Monica, “Typical butcher shops are pretty intimidating in the way that if you don’t know what you are looking at or what you are looking for, it’s just a sea of meat and you are expected to know what you want and the cooking preparations for all of it.
“Often butchers don’t have the culinary knowledge or the patience to really have a conversation about what you are looking for, so we really wanted to take the intimidation factor out of the equation and just make it a place that felt really comfortable to hang out in—rather than speed and number of transactions, we wanted to have our primary focus be customized, individual attention for each transaction.”
Whole animal butchery means that instead of meat from multiple animals arriving already broken down via packing houses or distributors, entire animals (sans skin in the case of cows, sheep and goats) are brought in directly from farms within 150 miles of Berkeley and butchered at the shop. It also allows them to do custom cut butchery, since they have all of the animal’s parts and pieces. An international clientele means that customers often request cuts of meat not commonly found in the US, and The Local Butcher Shop is happy to oblige.
But as Monica explains, “With the whole animal concept, each animal only has one tenderloin. If we sell out of it, we can’t just go in the back and get anther out of a box. And that’s the education process with the customers, how are you going to cook it, how many people are you going to feed? Is it a special occasion dinner or just a quick school-night meal? And we can show them, here’s another cut that’s comparable in how you were going to cook it, or has a similar flavor or texture…there’s a lot of education going on.”
The shop also endeavors that no part of an animal is wasted. In addition to promoting less-popular cuts of meat, the meat that isn’t sold at retail is turned into sausages, patés and sauces (heart ragú was in the cold case on the day that I visited), a sandwich of the day ($8), soups, stocks, demi glacé and jars of lard, dog food and even a class on beef tallow soap making is offered. Says Monica, “There are no off-cuts or scraps. We value the whole animal.”
PHOTOGRAPHS BY COLIN CLARK.
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TEXT BY SAM JONES