Verone’s Italian Kitchen & Sausage Company moving into Fircrest’s Viafore’s space
Verone’s Italian Sausage could be one of the oldest food companies based in Tacoma that you’ve maybe never heard of.
But that’s about to change with the opening of their new retail location.
The five-generation Tacoma sausage company is opening its first shop – after a 30-year retail hiatus – in Fircrest.
It’ll be called Verone’s Italian Kitchen & Sausage Company.
Its owners expects to open on or around Dec. 22 (if all goes as planned) with a menu of hot sausage sandwiches built for take-out, plus refrigerated cases filled with the family’s fresh Italian sausages made from a recipe from Calabria. UPDATE: Verone’s is now open. Check out a first-bite report with photos and menu details here.
“We’re excited to share our dad’s favorite Italian comfort foods and we want to share that with the community,” explained Renee Verone Flores as the family heads into the home stretch of opening.
HISTORY OF VERONE’S
“The last time Verone’s had a storefront was on 34th and Pacific,” said Renee.
Longtime Tacomans will remember Pete’s Quality Meats, which was a butcher shop and the home for the family’s sausage making company. The building burned in an electrical fire sometime around the mid-1980s, recalled Renee (she’s not sure of the precise timeline).
The family legacy of meat cutting and sausage making dates back to 1923. Renee’s great-grandfather Joe Verone operated a meat cutting business in Sumner.
Grandpa Joe taught his son Pete, Renee’s grandfather, the meat cutting business and after Pete fought in World War II, he opened Pete’s Quality Meats, which operated in a number of locations around Tacoma. Renee’s father Joe learned the meat cutting business from his father Pete. Like his father after World War II, Joe Verone continued working at the family’s meat cutting business after he served in the Vietnam War.
After the fire put an end to Pete’s Quality Meats, the family continued to operate the business as a specialty sausage company, using a wholesale commercial kitchen to sell directly to restaurants and locals.
They built quite a following for their sausage, but they always yearned for another retail space.
“My dad always wanted to return to a retail store,” she said of her father, Joe Verone. “I’ve always dreamed of working with my dad since I was a little girl.”
She added, “When I was little, my dad was always working. Almost all my early memories of my dad were at his shop. If we wanted to hang out, we’d go down there and hang out with him at his store.”
After Pete’s Quality Meats closed, her father took a job at the Pierce County Clerk’s office and “worked an entire career there,” said Renee. Renee also has another career. She’s a teacher. The family has always worked their sausage business as a side business for more than 30 years, she said.
THE LEGACY OF VERONE’S ON RESTAURANT MENUS
Verone’s has serviced some of the most famous Tacoma restaurant names of yesteryear and today. The legendary Italian restaurant Bimbo’s was a client and long-gone pizza restaurants Shakey’s and Pietro’s also used Verone’s sausage on their pizza pies.
The Cloverleaf, which uses Verone’s sausage on its pizza, remains one of the oldest and most consistent clients of Verone’s, said Renee.
A number of other local Italian restaurants use Verone’s sausages – from Macaluso’s in Ruston to Joeseppi’s in Westgate. It’s likely even if you’ve never heard of Verone’s, you’ve probably eaten something the family has produced.
And now it’ll operate in the home of one of the region’s now-gone favorite Italian delis.
WILL VERONE’S BE LIKE VIAFORE’S? NOT EXACTLY
My first encounter with Viafore’s in Fircrest was so long ago, I can’t even remember the year, but I remember the sandwich: It was the meatball sandwich, or “polpette,” as owner Dave Viafore’s family called the meatballs at home.
Those meatball sandwiches were on the menu since Jim Aquino opened his Fircrest Italian deli in 1969. David Viafore began making meatball sandwiches there in 1977 before buying the deli in 1985.
For more than 30 years, Viafore’s was a neighborhood staple and a go-to for Italian food lovers throughout the region. It was a combination deli counter, hot-and-cold sandwich deli, with an immense business in pre-packaged foods sold out of the deli’s freezer cases, as well as home to a variety of Italian groceries.
Viafore’s closed permanently earlier this year when David Viafore retired (he’s still on the Fircrest City Council).
The reason Verone’s will open in the Viafore’s space is because of David Viafore, Renee said. “Dave Viafore is this really amazing person in this community. When he retired, he called my dad and said, ‘I’d love to see another family in there. So we leased it from the building owners,” she said.
She added, “Dave leaves really big shoes to fill and maybe we won’t fill them the way Dave did, but I hope people can feel some comfort from our family operating there and that they appreciate our sausage.”
CHANGES IN THE SPACE
“It’s a retail sausage store and we’re also selling sausage sandwiches and we have a freezer to-go section for fresh homemade frozen food, very similar to what Dave did. We were mindful of what the community loved the most about Dave’s place, but we definitely put the Verone’s spin on it,” said Verone.
“We’re not a traditional deli, no slicing of meats. You’re not going to be able to come in and say I want five pounds of capicola, we won’t be doing that.”
However, if you’re after a hot sausage sandwich or some fresh sausage to take home, Verone’s will have it.
“We’ve changed the footprint of how Dave had it laid out,” she explained. “It will feel and look different. It’s set up to be a grab-and-go out of the freezer or the cooler.”’
“We’ll have the fresh sausage, all the time fresh, and then we have the grocery area. There’s no seating” as Viafore’s once had, she said.
She added, “I’ve always enjoyed the grab-and-go in East Coast delis. … I want a little bit of the East coast vibe over here. You can come in and grab what you need.”
THE VERONE’S MENU
The sample menu on the Verone’s website lists five kinds of sausages – Italian, hot Italian, bratwurst, Louisiana hot sausage and jalapeno cheddar kielbasa.
Those sausages make the foundation for the build-your-own sausage sandwiches ($9) served on rolls and topped with a list of condiments ranging from brown mustard to horseradish, onions, giardiniera and a variety of cheeses.
The menu also lists an Italian sausage sandwich with cheese and marinara ($12), a meatball sandwich with marinara and provolone ($12), a meatloaf club sandwich ($12), a po’ boy built with the Verone’s Louisiana hot sausage ($10), a jalapeno cheddar kielbasa sausage sandwich with cream cheese, jalapenos, sauteed onions and bacon ($10) and a classic bratwurst on a roll ($10). The menu also lists pizza bread ($4.75 to $9) and soups.
Did I mention the most exciting part involving dessert? They’ll have cannoli, which is a really tough Italian dessert to find around here. Cannoli likely won’t be offered to start in the early days after Verone’s opens because of the labor involved in serving filled-to-order cannoli, but Renee said the family is excited to eventually offer cannoli, which are delicate pastry tubes typically filled with custard or sweetened ricotta cheese.
She and her father are debating the fillings they’ll use at Verone’s. “He loves the traditional custard, but I love the cheese. We’ll experiment with what people like,” she said. But she said so far, he’s winning the filling debate. “We’ll start off with a custard cannoli.”
Also, “we’ll have grandma’s biscotti,” she added.
VERONE’S ITALIAN KITCHEN & SAUSAGE COMPANY
Where: 604 Regents Blvd, Fircrest; 253-327-1663
UPDATE: The restaurant is now open. Read a first-bite report here.
TACOMA’S FIRST LAOTIAN RESTAURANT NOW OPEN
Have you visited Sweet Rice, Tacoma’s first Laotian restaurant? The restaurant serves a menu of Laotian favorite, such as nam khao, crispy lettuce wraps, made with preserved sausage cured in house. Check out my story here.