Everyone in Westerly has their favorite things, whether it’s a secret spot at the beach, a certain menu item at a downtown restaurant, or a quiet place in the park to relax. One favorite thing that almost everyone shares, however, is delicious soppressata, or as it’s affectionately known – soupy.
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The old phrase goes “no one wants to know how the sausage is made,” but Bruno Trombino of Westerly Meat Packing was gracious enough to share some of the preparation techniques and the history of soupy, as it is such an integral part of Westerly’s culinary scene.
Soupy originated in southern Italy many generations ago. In the days before refrigeration, farmers would slaughter their pigs in the winter to take advantage of the naturally lower temperatures and subsequent ease of meat storage. It may look like sausage because of its casing, but the curing process makes all the difference. A salt cured pork product, soupy shares some similarities with prosciutto and capocollo, but instead of being a solid cut, the meat is ground, mixed with spices, and then wrapped in beef intestine.
Of course, Westerly is home to a great number Italian-Americans, many of whom came from southern Italy and brought with them their love of soupy, which they continue to make in the comfort of their own homes. “Everyone has their own version, their own ratio of salt and spices,” Bruno shared. “But the main ingredients are always black pepper, hot pepper, and paprika.”
Westerly Meat Packing has perfected their recipe over the course of five generations, with the family immigrating from Italy in the early 1900s and soon thereafter opening up Bruno’s Meat Market. “My mother’s maiden name is Bruno, but my parents changed the name to Westerly Meat Packing in the 1970s,” Bruno explained. Westerly Meat Packing remains a family-run, family-oriented business, with Bruno’s parents still playing an active role, along with Bruno’s brother Medoro and their children.
The market predominantly sold meat products for years, but has put on additions and expanded their inventory over time to become a fully-fledged grocery store with fresh meat, prepared food, and Italian groceries. They also sell wholesale to restaurants and are a USDA Inspection Facility, which enables them to process the meats of other local farmers and help them sell their products at farmers’ markets or other locations.
“We still make our soupy the same way that we did five generations ago, tying it by hand and using real beef intestine and no starter culture,” Bruno said. “Some places will go for synthetic options or try to speed up the curing process, but that’s why theirs won’t taste quite like ours.” Westerly Meat Packing produces an average of 1200 pounds of soupy a week, available in sweet, mild, hot, and triple hot.
“You can use soupy for everything, it’s very versatile” Bruno explained. “Make an omelet with it, or add it to your spaghetti sauce, or serve it with some antipasto and crackers as part of a charcuterie board.”
Whether you get your soupy from a friend or from Westerly Meat Packing, make sure to add a stick or two to your summer menu to enjoy at the beach, a family picnic, or backyard cookout soon!