|Martin Giunta doesn't need to
showcase his immaculate sausage-making facility just off the highway,
penned in by the fields and woods of East Greenwich.
He doesn't have to
throw tidbits about the Philadelphia restaurateurs who buy his specialty
sausage and ask him to come up with new varieties. He doesn't even have to
fork into his family's passion for the meat business.
The pork sausage flavored with sharp-aged Provolone cheese and fresh
Italian parsley is enough to win arguments. So is the chicken sausage with
feta cheese and fresh spinach. And the fresh apple sausage made with pork,
turkey or chicken.
With more than 30 varieties of Martin's Specialty Sausages in production,
it's enough to make his fans groan out loud. That's the reaction he's looking
"When you eat our sausage, I want you to say, "Oh my God, I've never tasted
anything better," said Giunta, the company's 44-year-old owner and sausage
If you bite into his chicken, feta and spinach sausage and don't taste the
feta and spinach, he said, "I'm not happy."
It's been that way since he was a kid, grinding out his grandfather's
recipe for sweet and hot Italian sausage at the family's store in the Italian
Market in South Philly. At the tender -- ahem -- age of 9, Giunta was handed a
small boning knife and set to work. By age 13, he landed the sausage-making
job in the back of the shop, working after school and on the weekends.
But the kid had a creative bone. Within a few years, he created his own
recipe, tossing sharp-aged Provolone cheese, fresh Italian parsley and red
wine into the grinder, along with Grandpop Giunta's recipe for sweet Italian
sausage. It's still a customer favorite.
That wasn't enough. He boned roasting pigs and stuffed them with sausage.
He set up smokers in the garage, testing out which hardwoods made the best
"From the very beginning, I never had people objecting to the tastes we put
together," said Giunta. "My mother had a knack for putting flavors together.
My dad can't boil water. He burns toast."
By 18, he branched out on his own, pulling in orders from Philadelphia's
burgeoning restaurant business. He deboned ducks and stuffed them with apple
sausage. He expanded beyond Italian sausage, adding French, Greek, Cajun and
When time-crammed chefs wanted new flavors, they asked him to come up with
new recipes. He obliged even the strangest requests. Once, he squeaked out a
venison sausage with onions, juniper berries and unsweetened chocolate for
Jack McDavid, chef-owner of the Down Home Diner.
In 1986, he opened a store in the famed Reading Terminal Market. In 1989,
he moved production to a former meat-processing facility in the city,
expanding his customers to include Dietz and Watson, supermarkets and more.
Among his longtime customers is Tom Peters, co-owner of Monk's Cafe, at
16th and Spruce in Philadelphia. In business for a smidge over 11 years,
Peters has been a Martin's customer for nearly as long. At the start of the
cafe, Peters made sausage himself, but it was too time-consuming and labor
intensive. He found a good source at Martin's stall in the Reading Terminal
"I was blown away by their quality," said Peters, who also operates The
Belgian Cafe, Grace Tavern and Nodding Head Brewery. "We sell a lot of it."
In cooler months, the cafe leans on garlic sausage for its cassoulet. In
the summer, chicken-and-apple sausage stars in a sandwich with spicy raspberry
mustard and romaine lettuce. The restaurant also features a sausage appetizer,
offering a rotating variety of Martin's specialties. At Grace Tavern, the
spicy Italian sausage with sauteed onions and peppers is a hit.
"It's freshly made," said Peters. "You can't compare that to anything that
comes out of a big factory. These are delivered fresh a couple times a week. I
love the fact that it's a local company."
But it's not about business for Giunta. It's about the sausage.
In 2002, he moved production out of the city into a spanking new building
he designed, in the Mickleton section of East Greenwich Township. He
researched the machinery, everything from smokers to grinders to stuffers.
In one room, some 50 kinds of fragrant spices are stored in barrels and
bins: crushed red pepper, black pepper, white pepper, sea salt, fennel,
Spanish paprika, cumin, coriander, thyme. His windowed office looks out not
over the lush countryside he loves, but over the chilled production room where
workers roll out fresh sausage by the link.
Giunta often brings home sausage to try out on his wife, Kim, and their two
daughters, ages 16 and 10. A family favorite is the new buffalo chicken
sausage. He successfully tested out his turkey Italian sausage on his dad,
Charles Giunta Sr., an old-school butcher who thinks "poultry" is a dirty
The best way to cook it? Don't torture your sausage, advises Bob Roselli,
the company's salesman. Don't poke holes in it, don't split it open down the
middle, and don't boil it. Today's sausage is leaner than it used to be, so
let the juices stay inside the casing.
The Giunta family keeps it simple. Throw some broccoli rabe-and-red-pepper
sausage on the grill, saute some peppers and onions and tuck it all in a nice
roll. Or maybe grill up some andouille and top it with Gruyere and mustard.
Dinner is ready.