Jerry Del Prete, East Boston’s undisputed ‘King of Cold Cuts’, has died.
Del Prete, who for over three decades ran the unassuming yet arguably one of the best sub shops in town, died on Wednesday, January 6 following a short illness at his home surrounded by his family. He was 69 years old.
Del Prete successfully ran Gloria’s Food Market on the corner of Cottage and Everett Street since 1978, a place were Eastie residents would get their weekly fix of salami, mortadella and top shelf imported fresh cheeses, until his retirement in 2013. Del Prete sold the store to former Main Streets Director Clark Moulaison. Moulaison changed the name to Carmella’s Market but kept the spirit and purpose of Gloria’s alive.
Del Prete’s Gloria’s harkened back to the days when Saturday was cold cut day in Eastie. It was a time when mothers, out of food by the end of the week but one day away from Sunday morning food shopping, would line up to get fresh cold cuts and ‘spukies’ for Saturday lunch. He was also a mentor and father figure to the kids in the Jeffries Point neighborhood who would head down to the store with a note in hand on Saturdays to pick up cold cuts and cheeses for their mothers who couldn’t make the weekly trip.
However, while Del Prete was known throughout the neighborhood as the best place to buy Italian specialities his reputation as the purveyor of the best cold cuts and hard-to-find imported cheeses stretched beyond the borders of Eastie and Massachusetts.
“People still come down from New Hampshire and up from Connecticut and New York to get their cold cuts and cheeses here,” Del Prete told the East Boston Times in in 2010.
Del Prete was born next door to the store and spent most of his life within a two-block radius of Gloria’s.
He began working at the store in 1961 as an order boy. The store was founded by the Papas family out of South Boston. They were Greeks but opened a chain of Italian food specialty stores throughout Boston in the 1920s.
The store changed hands several times before Del Prete got his hands on it in 1978, purchasing the store from Al Russo.
However, once Del Prete took over the store he kept things simple and focused on quality.
The store itself was like walking back into time and little changed inside since the 1920s.
“We don’t carry just one brand like Boars Head or Dietz and Watson but the best cold cuts from the best distributors,” explained Del Prete in 2010. “I try and get the best of what’s out there.”
With the basic Italian groceries lining the shelf like canned tomatoes, pastas, homemade raviolis, olive oils and wide array of peppers, it was the cold cuts and hunks of imported Italian cheeses like Pecorino or Romano that definitely made Del Prete stand out from the rest and earned him the title ‘King of Cold Cuts’.
Aside from his retail cold cut and cheese business, Del Prete was known to make some of the best subs in the neighborhood. Each and every sandwich Del Prete made he made to order with freshly sliced meats and cheeses. Then Del Prete would add any topping you liked but the difference was if you wanted a tomato, he’d slices up a fresh tomato on the spot.
It’s was these little extras that set Del Prete and Gloria’s apart from the rest for so many years.