Cheese, olive oil, pasta and chocolate are specialties at Salt Lake City’s Caputo’s Market and Deli. Fresh meat? Well, that’s an area where the owners and employees lacked expertise. At least until a few weeks ago, when they opened a butcher shop inside the downtown store near Pioneer Park.
The man behind the meat counter is Frody Volgger, the former owner of Vienna Bistro, and a chef who’s known for his impeccable butchering and charcuterie skills as well as the trademark soul patch on his chin.
The new meat case — located next to the olive oil and vinegar bar — offers cuts of beef, pork and lamb as well as sausages and hams that Volgger has cured and smoked on site. On a recent morning, there were lamb chops, beef tenderloin and pork belly in the case, as well as two kinds of Italian sausages, a Basque chorizo and lamb links with Moroccan and Greek flavors.
Volgger’s Austrian upbringing is part of the meat display thanks to hard-to-pronounce items such as bündnerfleisch (beef), jagdwurst (pork sausage with mustard seed) and speck, a smoked and cured prosciutto ham. The speck is the 60-year-old Volgger’s signature offering. He knows of no one else in Utah who makes this gourmet bacon.
All the products are cut from animals raised on Utah farms, older “heritage” breeds that tend to have full flavors and texture compared to their industrial-produced counterparts. Volgger breaks each animal down by hand, wasting almost no part of the animal — even the bones are used for stocks in the deli.
Perfect marriage • One might wonder why an Austrian-born chef is working at an Italian market. But the two are linked by geography and friendship.
Volgger’s hometown of Burs, Austria, is just across the border from the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy. The majority of residents in Alto Adige speak German and enjoy food with a heavy Austrian- Hungarian influence such as sauerkraut, horseradish and speck. They even call the region Sudtirol or South Austria.
“The names and food are German, but they are happy to be part of Italy. It’s an interesting blend,” said Matt Caputo, the store’s marketing director.
When Volgger, approached Caputo and his father Tony about starting a butcher shop, “there’s was only one answer to give — yes.”
It helped that Volgger had been a regular customer and had brought in samples of his sausages, speck and other creations for the staff to try. “We’ve known Frody for years. We know how talented he is,” Caputo said. “But he’s also a staff favorite because he treats people like gold.”
Boutique butcher shops are a growing national trend. In 2011, Bon Appetite magazine called these artisan butchers the “new rock stars of he culinary world.” Unlike supermarket butchers that use industrial meats, these chefs used grass-fed animals from local farms
At Caputo’s, the lamb comes from the Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery in Eden; Berkshire pigs are bought from the Christiansen Family Farms in Vernon; and the beef comes from Pleasant Creek Ranch in Provo.
Austrian beginnings • Of course, long before it was food trend, Volgger was learning how to butcher animals on grandmother’s farm in Austria.
“We did our own butchering, curing and smoking,” said Volgger, who despite having lived in Utah for nearly 30 years still has a German accent. “We did it the old-fashioned way, not the quick way.”
After graduating from high school, Volgger attended culinary school in Salzburg and then came to the United States. In the 1980s, he was working in Santa Barbara when the owner of the restaurant asked him to help with a new project in Park City. Volgger, an avid skier and biker, accepted the offer and ended up staying in Utah. He has worked in numerous places, including The Grill at the Depot (now Zoom) in Park City and The Metro Cafe. He was the chef at the Salt Palace during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
After the Olympics, he was ready to produce food on a more intimate scale, so he opened Vienna Bistro on Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City. Everything at the restaurant was made from scratch from the stocks and pastries to the sausages and cured meats. “Nothing was fabricated.”
Then in 2010, Volgger was diagnosed with colon cancer, which brought months of chemotherapy, nausea and weight loss. While he worked to keep Vienna Bistro open, he was ultimately forced to close it.
But the treatments worked and Volgger’s cancer went into remission. In recent months, he has battled the subsequent after effects of the disease, including pain, infections and surgeries.
Today, while he’s still not 100 percent, he’s close. Opening the butcher shop has helped his healing.
“It’s satisfying to do it. It relaxes me,” he said, with a large boning knife in his hand and pig leg arranged in front of him on the counter. “This is what I really want to do.”
www.sltrib.com/blogs/bitebybite; Twitter: @kathystephenson
Old World Butcher Shop
In addition to cheese, olive oil and chocolate, Caputo’s Market has opened its own butcher shop.
Where • Caputo’s Market and Deli, 314 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-531-8669
What • Purchase fresh cuts of beef, lamb and pork as well as cured and smoked meats prepared on-site by chef Frody Volgger. Signature items include speck (cured smoked ham), jagdwurst (mustard seed-inflected sausage), and lamb ham — all made with local grass-fed meats.
Hours • Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Details • www.caputosdeli.com