New York Times Feature

New York Times Feature

Sep 23, 2022Glen Schanen

A New Jersey Sausage-Eater’s Tour of Europe

By Marissa Rothkopf Bates
May 28, 2015
When Herminio Lopes, the owner of Lopes Sausage Company in Newark, got a call from the White House in 1996 with a request for 100 pounds of linguiça and chorizo to be packed for President Bill Clinton, he didn’t believe it — until Secret Service agents showed up two hours later to check the shipment.

Though Lopes Sausage no longer serves the White House (that ended midway through President George W. Bush’s tenure), the wholesale side of the company does provide Spanish and Portuguese sausages to restaurants and supermarkets up and down the East Coast.

Lopes Sausage has been in the Ironbound district of Newark since 1965, when Mr. Lopes’s father, also named Herminio, started the business nine years after immigrating from Portugal. “Making sausage was the skill he brought from Portugal,” Mr. Lopes said, “and there was nothing like it at the time in the community.”

The senior Mr. Lopes was apparently not the only European immigrant with this skill set to land in New Jersey. The state seems to have an abundance of ethnic sausages available, from chorizo to bratwurst. And despite the encroachment of megastores and factories, there are still quite a few independent businesses that make and sell the meats the old-fashioned way.

Walk-in customers at Lopes Sausage find bins of salt cod and glass cases filled with parts of pig, from snout to hock. Portuguese linguiça, along with its Spanish cousin chorizo, are piled next to lesser-known specialties like salpicao, a smoked lean sausage that is eaten like ham, and farinheira, which is popular in the north of Portugal and is made with flour and pork skin. For the more recent Brazilian immigrants, Mr. Lopes has added calabresa.

Mr. Lopes hickory-smokes 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of sausage a week, and at least 3,000 more every week around Easter and Christmas. He still uses the same giant stainless-steel smokers installed by his father in 1965. “I heard of a nearby hot dog manufacturer who bought new smokers, and the taste of their sausages changed,” he said. “There was no way they could get the old flavor back.”

On a typical Friday or Saturday, the store is filled with customers from nearby suburbs, who have returned to Lopes for those garlicky, smoky flavors they have known for years. “Seventy-five percent of my walk-in customers don’t live in Newark anymore,” Mr. Lopes said. “They come from the surrounding suburbs just to stock up on a taste of home.”

In Spilinga, the town in southern Italy where Rosario Barbalace, co-owner of Rosario’s in Montclair, grew up, it was salami that supported his family’s business.

“Our small town was made up mostly of farmers,” said Mr. Barbalace (pronounced bar-ba-LA-chee). “Many had their own supply of meat, but they would come to us for salami.”

In 2004, Mr. Barbalace, with his wife and partner, Michele, opened the butcher shop and deli, but they started making salami only recently. There are currently three versions of sopressata (a dry salami) available: sweet, hot and fennel.

“The real trick, if you want to have the best salami you ever had in your life,” Mr. Barbalace said, “is to let the meat experience winter and the change of seasons.”

Mr. Barbalace recreates the temperature change in his store with a cold room where he initially cures the meat. The salamis are then hung over the counter in the main store to finish curing at room temperature.

“Once it’s been cured in the warm, you’ll see the meat has relaxed and become juicy,” he said. “We call that ‘lacrima,’ which means tears.”

Rosario’s also offers an Italian specialty from Mr. Barbalace’s hometown: ’nduja. A spicy, oddly punctuated, spreadable salami, ’nduja consists of finely ground cuts of fatty meats, including pork shoulder and belly, and hot peppers. ’Nduja is traditionally spread on a piece of bread and eaten. But Mr. Barbalace spoke enthusiastically of its compatibility with other foods. “Eat it with eggs, pasta, filet or shellfish,” he said. “It’s all your fantasy.”

Leszek and Bozena Jablonski at their Union Pork Store in Union; sausages hanging to dry at Union Pork Store.
Leszek and Bozena Jablonski at their Union Pork Store in Union; sausages hanging to dry at Union Pork Store.Credit...Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

The fantasy continues at Rosario’s with fresh and dried sausages on offer. Traditional favorites like fresh fennel sausage sit alongside 12-inch pinwheels of Asiago cheese-and-parsley sausage and a chicken sausage with broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers and garlic. There is also an assortment of ready-to-eat foods, like creamy homemade mozzarella.

Union Pork Store in Union goes beyond selling the meats of Mediterranean Europe. Sausages from all over the world are available, and some are even customized for people with dietary restrictions. Founded in 1946, when Union had a large German population, the store offers in its display cases an extensive selection of German bratwurst and frankfurters, as well as Polish and Hungarian items.

The owners, Bozena and Leszek Jablonski, worked in the store for Mrs. Jablonski’s mother for several years before buying it from her in 2006. Since then they have turned the store into a veritable United Nations of sausages, with over 140 varieties available. Along with German bratwursts and the kielbasi of their native Poland, the Jablonskis sell more exotic items such as Cypriot lamb sausages and Kashmir chicken sausages flavored with honey and saffron.

The Jablonskis’ clients inspire many of the new flavors and recipes. When a Filipino family asked Mr. Jablonski if he carried longanisa, a sausage popular in the Philippines, Jabi, as Mr. Jablonski likes to be called, promised he would make it if they brought in a family recipe they liked.

“I made their grandmother’s recipe and cooked it for them in the store, so they could try it,” he said. “Then they took it home and made it. They called me a day later to say it was perfect.” A sweet, garlicky longanisa, eight links to a pack, can now be found in the store.

Another longtime client asked if it was possible to make her grandson’s favorite bratwurst without eggs, as he had just discovered he had an allergy to them. Mr. Jablonski obliged.

“She cried when she picked them up. She got emotional because no one had been willing to help her,” he said.

“If you are allergic to something and need us to leave something out of a sausage, we can easily do that,” he added. “We want to be the store that makes you happy.”


Rosario’s Butcher Shop, 252 Park Street.;

Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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