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Business Sun Jun 08 2008
A prominent sign behind the counter at Joseph's Finest Meats reads, "It's Nice to Be Important, But It's More Important to Be Nice." As soon as our number was called, we could tell that Ben Camarda, the shop's owner, lives by those words.
My sister, Jenny, husband, Brian, and I made the trek from Lakeview to the family-run butcher shop at 7101 Addison St. in Portage Park on Saturday. It was actually Brian's second visit in three days; this Thursday, he took the bus west and came back telling tales of whole cows, prime beef, and astonishing prices. Jen and I had to see for ourselves (plus, we had more meat to purchase for Brian's birthday weekend, also known as Meat Festival 2008.)
Joseph's was everything we had hoped it would be - all due to the dedication, passion and integrity of the Camarda family. Ben took over the business from his father, Joseph, a few years back. Joseph, who is in his 70s, still works most weekends and can't see it any other way. He was there Saturday helping fill orders.
Aside from the top-quality beef, the majority of which is cut directly from whole cows delivered every other day and processed at the shop, the Camardas provide top-quality service. Ben is a softspoken man, but he clearly knows his meat. We wanted to make shish kebabs, and he asked us a variety of questions to help us determine how much and what type of beef we would need. He not only remembered that Brian had visited two days prior, but he knew what he had purchased: four, one-and-a-quarter-inch-thick, bone-in prime ribeyes, for his birthday barbecue.
The total for both trips to Joseph's came to $85, and here's what we got: two-and-a-quarter pounds of shish kebab meat (top choice filet), Brian's four ribeyes, my sister's boneless ribeye, two pounds of pasta, a jar of Italian fig jam, a pound of organic barley, a jar of housemade giardinera, and a loaf of crusty Italian bread.
We thought that was a steal even before Ben asked us if we'd like some samples. We said sure, and figured he would offer us a nibble of sausage on a toothpick, or some such typical butcher shop treat. Instead, as we chatted, Ben packed us a homemade sausage sampler, which we can only attribute to dumb luck and Brian's birthday. I had to stop myself from hugging the man as we thanked him profusely while he walked us out. (In case you're wondering, we did not mention that I write for a food Web site. Apparently, Ben takes his sign seriously!)
Still, if the service, prices, and freebies were the best part, this post wouldn't be entitled Best Meat Experience Ever. All six of us who chowed down on shish kebabs last night agreed they were the best we'd ever had. Brian gave the beef a half-hour bath in a simple but effective homemade marinade of olive oil, onion, garlic, rosemary, sugar, salt and pepper. I'll keep you posted on the ribeyes and sausages, which are on today's menu.
One more thing: we were tipped off to Joseph's by a cabbie, who spoke at great length and with great respect for the place and its meat. Thanks, cabbie. Maybe we'll see you at Joseph's sometime ...