Inside Russell’s Butcher and Deli, a new spot on Roncesvalles for Ontario-farmed meat, fun pantry finds and really good sandwiches
When Covid kiboshed indoor dining, Sarah and Christopher Terpstra were okay with it. They always preferred the grocery side of Alimentari, their Italian grocery-store-slash-trattoria. So, during the first lockdown in 2020, they shuttered the restaurant. To accommodate shoppers looking to avoid the big box stores, they then expanded their grocery options to include non-Italian goods. Now, Alimentari’s back to being strictly Italian, and everything that’s not from a boot-shaped country can be found at Russell’s Butcher and Deli, their newly opened butcher shop some 250 metres north. (Including their fully prepped Thanksgiving meal.)
Previously, Christopher had been butchering all the meat used at Alimentari. “I’ve been butchering longer than I’ve been making pasta,” he says. “I skipped out on university to go to a farm internship in Tuscany, and then worked for butcher Dario Cecchini in Chianti.” At Russell’s, he packs the gleaming meat counter with proteins from small, Ontario farms that focus on heritage breeds and letting their animals roam. Expect to find gorgeously fat-marbled pork from Perth Pork and Kipfer’s Heritage Farm, plump chickens from Fenwood Farm and Harrison’s Poultry, and lamb from Forsyth Farms. The star of the case are the rich ruby-coloured cuts of beef from Silver Tip Ranch, a Pefferlaw, Ontario farm that raises Speckle Park cattle (one of Canada’s few domestic cow breeds).
There’s an excellent mix of straight-up cuts (including dry aged striploins and bone-in ribeyes) and marinated meats such as chimichurri flank steak, maple mustard rib chops, and flattened piri piri chickens. There are usually four to six sausage choices on display, but Christopher makes almost two dozen different links, mostly pork—although there’s also a chicken five-spice option as well as a lamb merguez coil.
“We can finally carry things from around the world: Chinese, Thai, French, Middle Eastern and local products that never fit in at Alimentari,” says Sarah. The globe-spanning pantry selection includes spice blends (Never Not Eating, Le Comptoir de Mathilde and La Tortilleria), hot sauces (Damien’s, Heartbeat), and cooking sauces (Abokichi, Zing, de Siam), along with just about everything else you’d need to make dinner happen. You’ll find fancy oils, Acid League vinegars, Thai curry pastes and Japan-imported soy sauces, as well as dried legumes, pasta, sushi rice and French potato chips in funky flavours.
The deli counter has a mix of imported charcuterie (prosciutto and mortadella from Italy) as well as local cured salamis, ham and turkey. The roast beef’s currently the only thing made in-house, but Christopher hopes to change that. There are plans to get the smoker up and running soon. The sandwiches—turkey, roast beef, ham and cheese, and a muffuletta—are made with meat from the deli case and bread from Blackbird, and they’re all just $10 each. “We just wanted to make damn good deli sandwiches. Simple, good quality ingredients—no mile-high meat or excessive sauce,” says Christopher. “And we didn’t want this to feel like every other butcher shop in the city: sterile and overly masculine with cleavers on the walls,” says Sarah. “We wanted Russell’s to feel warm and inviting.”
Russell’s Butcher and Deli, 401 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-532-3490, russellsbutchershop.com