Twelve years I have looked at this sign waiting for it to be fixed/cleaned/spruced-up. It hasn't changed a jot. I hope it never does.
The full name of this business on Smith Street is actually Joe's Superette. But the "u" fell off sometime during the Eisenhower adminstration and there have been no efforts to order a replacement one. Everyone I know refers to it as "Joe's Perette" and at this point it seems quite natural to say it that way. There ain't no Joe inside. Just a laconic, affable man with a pot belly and a rust-colored brush moustache.
The sign advertises "fruit" and "vegetables" and "lattacini." Cheese you might find in here, but I've never seen the first apple or brussel sprout. The place is dingy in a way you don't see outside the most unattended bodegas, the ones that are actually fronts for drugs or cock fights or something. This helps in understanding what the store is all about. You see dust? That's not what they sell. So forget the sparcely populated shelfs of pasta and cannellini beans. Forget the rack of chips and the display case full of Boar's Head products. Look to where Mr. Moustache is standing, near the cash register. It's clean there. Near him is a shallow metal tray of small, bread-crumb-coated spheres.
These are prosciutto balls, and this is what Joe's Perette is all about. People pop in and order them in all sorts of numbers. "Six balls!" "Two dozen balls!" "Fifty balls!" Moustache gestures to a helper in the kitchen and the balls are heated up, put in a cardboard container—the kind used for french fries at drive-ins—wrapped up in wax paper and put in a brown bag. I'm not sure how much they are. Maybe 35 cents per. I never asked. But they're cheap, and they're hot and delicious. Nothing like them. Moist and tangy and cheesy and fresh. It is this one homemade product, I'm convinced, that keeps Joe's afloat. No need to push anything else.
And check out the phone number: UL5-6463.