Some sad news to report: The neighborhood's last old-school pork store, M&S, will be closing its doors for good in August. Owner Mel Diaz sent me the below photo of the note that he's posted on the front door.
M&S Traces its origins to 1948, when Anthony Schiccitano opened A&S Fine Food and Pork Store (his initials) up the avenue at 274 5th, now home to nail salon Reedchy. Brothers Mel Diaz and Sal Bonello took over the store in 2005 and gave it their own initials, and due to a rent dispute with Schiccitano's daughter they were forced to move into the current space, between 2nd and 3rd Streets, in 2008 (here's a full history). The brothers, who honed their skills at Little Italy's Italian Food Center, continued turning out freshmade mozzarella and ricotta, antipasti, homemade sausages, fresh pasta, freshly-butchered meats, and some outstanding sandwiches in the old-school tradition, and Mel took full ownership after Sal's untimely passing in 2010 at age 40.
Mel's own health problems are now forcing him to close the shop's doors for good, after a 66-year run. Thankfully, though, it doesn't end here. Russo's, which traces its lineage all the way back to a still-extant shop on Manhattan's 11th Street that's been open since 1908 (and a second location up on 7th Avenue and 10th and 11th Streets since 1996), will be taking over the location. Now run by Jack Russo, they're known for their fresh pasta and homemade mozzarella, ricotta, prepared foods, and antipasti; no word on whether they will continue M&S' tradition of selling fresh meats here, but they'll most likely sell sausages, like they do at their other locations.
A handful of businesses based on Seventh Avenue, like Eric Shoes and Pure Essentials, have opened second locations on Fifth within the past year. While it's sad to see M&S shutter after all these years (and I hope that Mel's health issues aren't too serious), it's nice a century-old Italian deli join them.