Late Flushing butcher leaves proud legacy

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Almost one week after burying their father and grandfather, two generations of the late Antonio D'Alessandro's family were hard at work Tuesday serving customers at the Flushing meat market the Italian immigrant founded in 1957.

It was a scene that would have made Antonio D'Alessandro, a man who toiled in a slaughterhouse in the mid-1900s to save up money and open his first butcher shop on the Lower East side, proud.

"There's a piece of him in every bit of this store," said his daughter-in-law, Susan D'Alessandro.

D'Alessandro died of a stroke on Feb. 18 at his Florida residence. He was 82.

Following his funeral and burial Feb. 23 in Long Island, his family brought back the flower arrangements from the services and lined them up in front of the meat market at 46-07 Hollis Court Blvd.

On Tuesday, customers were still expressing condolences to the family members working at the store.

Josephine D'Alessandro said they all say the same things - "he was like a friend, he would always smile and have something nice to say."

Antonio D'Alessandro was born in 1917 in Naples, Italy. At the age of 8, his mother had him join his sister in a voyage to the United States.

Joseph D'Alessandro, one son who helps manage the meat market, said his father returned to Italy soon afterward because he missed his mother.

Antonio D'Alessandro's mother decided he should return to New York, so she emigrated back with him.

"She wanted him to grow up in America," said Joseph D'Alessandro.

Antonio D'Alessandro married in 1939 and by the time he left the city to fight in World War II, he and his wife had had three children - Salvatore, Josephine and John - and another brother, the late Anthony D'Alessandro, was on his way.

Antonio D'Alessandro returned from the war and opened Tony's Meat Market on First Avenue on the Lower East Side in Manhattan.

In 1957, he and his family moved to Flushing and opened D'Alessandro's, which is widely known for its meats, home-made sausages and Italian delicacies.

As the years passed the family moved to Long Island. Antonio D'Alessandro retired in 1980, although he still kept on eye on the Flushing store and worked there part time. His sons Salvatore, John, Joseph and Gennaro D'Alessandro, and daughter Josephine D'Alessandro now own and operate the business, and two grandsons are also part of the large staff.

Victor Colello, one of Antonio D'Alessandro's grandsons, started working at the market when he was 10, stocking shelves and eventually joining his grandfather cutting meat.

Colello described Antonio D'Alessandro as "my grandfather, my father, my boss, my friend."

Family members agreed that no matter how successful Antonio D'Alessandro grew, he never forgot his hardworking, immigrant roots. He may have owned a lot of land and a pool, but he insisted on taking care of them himself.

"He could have been in jewels and fancy clothes, but it wasn't him," said Josephine D'Alessandro, who recalled no matter how many new outfits family members bought for him, he always wore the same things.

She said he also remained active until the end of his life, especially when it came to gardening.

"Someone who thought a plant was dead, he would bring it back" to life, Josephine D'Alessandro said.

Most of all, he loved being surrounded by his family, whether at work or at play, said Joseph D'Alessandro.

"My dad always threw family parties," he said. "Labor Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Christmas, New Year's. That was his way of having his family together all the time."

Antonio D'Alessandro is also survived by daughters Phyllis, Camille and Denise, 20 other grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

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