One last slice: Butcher retires after 20 years in town

Pastrami, prosciutto, salami — butcher Phil Longobardi will ring up his last order at Ridgefield Prime at the end of the month.

Longobardi, who has worked as a butcher in town over the last two decades, grew up the son of a Manhattan meat cutter in the 1960s.

He’s been working in front of a meat slicer since he was 10 years old, and has known since those early days as an apprentice at his dad’s shop that butchering was the profession for him.

After five decades behind the counter, Longobardi has decided to retire and move to Arizona with his wife at the end of the month.

Although he loves his job at Ridgefield Prime, where he’s worked the last eight years, he’s ready to make the change.

The physical demands have taken a toll on his body.

“The amount of lugging, picking up of boxes, putting stuff away, getting down on knees, standing up, throwing 60-pound boxes five to six feet in the air,” said Longobardi, who lives in New Milford.

He used to cut meat at Balducci’s and Hay Day in town before those businesses closed shop.

Longobardi said what he will miss most is his customers — most of whom became regulars, switching from Balducci’s to Ridgefield Prime when he made the move back in 2008.

“I would like to thank all the customers for all the years of loyalty,” he said. “And all the years of letting me be a part of their lives as far as cutting meat for them and their families.”

The longtime butcher said his favorite part of working in town was “making the clients smile and making them happy.”

He said they shouldn’t worry about the future of the butcher shop — they’ll still be able to get a leg of lamb or a prime rib whenever the occasion calls.

During the last month, Longobardi has been working with Ridgefield Prime owners Bob Sperry and Ed Bistany to train replacements to take on his responsibilities. They’ve hired two new staff members to ensure the transition goes smoothly.

“The store will be just as good as, if not better than, what it was,” said Longobardi.

“Johnny XYZ will take over as master butcher,” said Sperry. “Phil introduced us to Johnny and they have worked side by side for the last two years.

“Don’t hold it against John if he repeats one of Phil’s jokes — he’s working on his own material.”

The business, located at 113 Danbury Road in Copps Hill Commons, will celebrate Longobardi with an in-store tribute from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25.