Jingle, jingle. The bells on the door sing my entrance.
“Just a minute miss, I’ll be right with you,” he says turning back to his customer. The market is small and narrow. Three brown stools and a thin ledge on the right. A counter on the opposite side has three window displays. Specialty meats, cheeses, olives and pickled vegetables in the first. Prepared antipasti in the middle. Chicken thighs, beefsteaks, and a variety of other meats in the third. Baked bread held in wooden slats on the wall behind the counter. Sparkling water, fizzy soda, and beer in two fridges in the back.
“10 ounces might too big.” With gloveless hands he holds a chunk of red meat above the counter with a knife showing what 10 ounces looks like. “You need like that big,” he takes the knife down half an inch.
“OK,” the customer nods. The man goes back to his cutting board. The customer’s hands burrow more deeply into her heavy black coat. “Hey Jerry, you think that’ll be enough? I mean for two of us?” Her accent is thick Brooklyn, I can hear it now.
“Yeah. Yeah, I think it is,” he says back. And he sounds like Tony Danza. He massages the filets like they’re stress balls as he weighs them.
“They like 8, 8 ounces each.” He weighs them separately, then together. Then separately and together again. “Yeah, like 8. Just cook em in the over for about 15, no more than 15. That’s what I’d do.” His voice is gruff, but kind. He begins wrapping them up in white butcher paper.
“I’m so nervous,” she confesses. “I ain’t nevah done this before. Just 15 minutes? You’d do it 350 too?”
“Yeah, bout that. 350. Sear em first. Then pop em in the oven right with the pan if you got one of those.”
“Yeah, I got one a them.”
“Just do that. 15 minutes. It’ll be perfect.”
She pulls out a couple of $50s and hands him one.
“8, 9, 10, and 20,” he counts back her change.
“I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah,” he says after her. Then looking at me, “what can I get you sweetheart?”