By KATIE MOEN
For Union County HAWK
WESTFIELD — Frank DeRosa, Sr., an unassuming man in a white butcher’s coat and a cheerful red bow tie, talks about meat the way other people might talk about a treasured work of art.
“Do you see this?” he asked, tapping hard on an aged side of beef in his new custom-built cooler. “This right here is a beautiful thing. You don’t find meat like this. Not anywhere.”
He paused, looking proudly around the new butcher shop he now owns with his son, Frank DeRosa, Jr., on Cumberland Street.
“Well,” he said, grinning, “actually you do. You get it right here.”
The shop, appropriately named F.A. DeRosa USDA Prime Dry Aged Beef, will host its official grand opening on Friday, November 26. The retail storefront, located in downtown Westfield, is prepped and ready to offer a wide selection of quality, handpicked, aged USDA prime cuts ranging from porterhouses and T-bones to bone-in sirloins and briskets.
“This has been a long time coming, but such good things are usually worth the wait,” said Frank DeRosa, Jr., who stepped up to take his place in the family business when his grandfather, who also was named Frank, passed away approximately 10 years ago.
“This shop is the culmination of four generations’ worth of knowledge,” said Frank Jr., who started his professional life in the international business development and marketing sector. “When my grandfather passed away, it was like a wakeup call. I was standing at his visitation and I realized that my dad was the only one left. I couldn’t just let this legacy get away from us without a fair fight.”
The DeRosa family story started almost 100 years ago with Frank Jr.’s great-grandfather, an Italian immigrant also named Frank, who opened his first business, The Liberty Food Store, in Newark in 1929. Eventually, the family would go on to run J&M Market in Mountainside.
“J&M was an institution in its own right,” Frank Jr. said. “It served this area well for many years, and we’re hoping that a bit of that solid reputation will help us to create something even better going forward.”
After convincing his father to come out of retirement to open the new store with him, Frank Jr. started the long process of trying to make it all come together.
“My great-grandfather’s store was always in the back of my head when I was planning this out,” Frank Jr. said. “It was a real main street type of place, and that’s what we wanted to create here.”
In that effort, it appears, F.A. DeRosa’s has already more than succeeded. The shop is such a “main street type of place,” in fact, that passersby will likely come to recognize one or possibly even both of the Franks carving up their latest cuts right in the front window.
“We have no secrets here,” Frank Sr. said. “We’re proud of what we’re doing, so why not let everybody watch us do it?”
In that same vein, visitors to the store will be invited to step into the custom, atmosphere-controlled cooler to pick out their own cuts in much the same way that Frank Sr. selects them himself.
“I head into Manhattan once a week and personally choose every single piece of meat that’s hanging in this cooler,” the elder Frank said. “It’s me and the guy from Peter Luger’s standing there going over every inch. This isn’t the type of business that you can learn about by reading about it. You just have to jump right in there and get your hands on it.”
Each piece of primal beef that Frank Sr. picks out is marked with the shop’s special brand to make sure that no mix-ups can happen during transport.
“Yes, it takes more time to do it this way, but it’s the right way to do it,” Frank Sr. said. “We don’t ever do boxed meat here. This is all transported fresh directly from the midwest, and it’s the highest-quality meat available anywhere. I’ve been doing this a long time, and at this point, I know exactly what I’m looking for.”
Once it arrives in Westfield, Frank Sr. said, each cut of beef will be aged in the shop for at least 28 days to reach an optimum flavor.
In addition to retail sales, Frank Jr. said, F.A. DeRosa’s will be partnering with a number of local restaurants and steakhouses to bring their cuts to a wider audience.
“We’re not doing poultry, and we’re not doing prepared foods,” Frank Jr. said. “We’re doing one thing, and hopefully, we’re doing it better than anyone.”
Friday’s grand opening will feature samples, giveaways and the chance to meet the family behind one of Westfield’s newest additions.
Luckily, Frank Jr. said, proudly showing off a photo, the next Frank DeRosa (currently 6 years old) is already waiting in the wings to carry on the family legacy once his grandfather decides to retire for good.
“I think I’ll let him finish elementary school first,” Frank Jr. said, smiling, “but he already loves it. Only kid I know who prefers rare, dry-aged steak to a Happy Meal.”
For more information, visit: facebook.com/pages/category/Butcher-Shop/FA-DeRosa.