01 February 2007

A Good Sign: Latticini-Barese

This sign, lording it over Hicks Street and the gash that is the BQE trench, advertises a business that no longer exists: the late, lamented salumeria Latticini-Barese, which shuttered in 2002 after 75 years. Still, the large, hand-painted billboard lends succor and comfort to all who see it as a reminder of the former character of the neighborhood.

Old man Joe Balzano, when he was still up and active, rose early every morning to hand make the store's mozzerella in the back room of the store. It was the best cheese of its kinds in the area. Once, my visiting mother had the chutzpah to ask if she could watch him do his magic, and he agreed. I didn't join her, being too embarrassed by her brazenness, and I have regretted it ever since. I would have loved to have seen Joe at work.

The place also had a memorable sausage salad and a peerless sandwich called "The Fireman's Special," which included every spicy cured meat and hot pepper you can think of.

Things came to an end when Joe was hit by heart trouble and retired. His sons, not seeing the glory in maintaining the business, sold the building. It is now a real estate office that, as far as I can tell, is never inhabited by more than one employee at a time. But the sign's there, and hasn't been painted or built over in five years since Latticini died. Let's hope it stays that way.

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