Volpi's is more of a traditional Italian meat market than a butcher shop. Located on the legendary Hill in St. Louis (see map), Volpi's is the retail end of the famous John Volpi Foods, which may be the oldest Italian sausage and salame maker in the U.S.
In 1900, Giovanni Volpi emigrated from Italy to the U.S. Two years later, Volpi began to make salame, sausage and prosciutto ham and called his company the John Volpi Sausage Company. In the mid-20's, Volpi was already nationally known as one of the finest Italian meat makers in the country.
In 1938, his nephew, Armando Pasetti, came from Italy to learn the art of curing meats. Pasetti, although only 14 years old and only being able to speak Italian when he started with his uncle, quickly learned the trade and took classes at night to learn English. He eventually took over the company when Giovanni Volpi passed away in the 50's.
In 2002, Pasetti's daughter, Lorenza Pasetti Denke, who had been the general manager of the company, took over the day-to-day operation from her father.
Volpi's retail operation on the Hill is a quaint little shop that features all different types of Italian meats, cheese, pastas, and specialties. Volpi's also has a number of olive oils and sauces to buy, as well.
But the draw is their Italian meats, and they're simply great. When I stop into Volpi's I always get their Milano salame and Genoa salame - which is practically the same thing, except the Milano has chunks of peppercorns in it.
The only problem with their Milano and Genoa salame is that once it's sliced and exposed to air, you have about 24 to 36 hours to eat it or it gets a very bad smell and taste to it.
They also have great Coppa salame, as well as wonderful Cappicola, Pepperoni and their world class Prosciutto ham. All of those meats I use in an Italian sandwich that I like to make (and I'll share that recipe soon).
When Schnuck's - a St. Louis-based grocery store - opened in Davenport about 18 months ago, I found they carried pre-packaged Volpi meats in their specialty meat department. Although it's still fun to go to Volpi's and watch them slice the meat off the big rolls, I can now get their meat (albeit at a premium price) just down the street from us.
Even if you're not into Italian meats, Volpi's meat market is a great place to visit to get an old world feel to what an old time Italian meat shop is all about. It's truly an institution on The Hill.