Aaron Rocchino preparing duck. Photo: Monica Rocchino

Chez Panisse chef Aaron Rocchino and his wife Monica are bringing artisan meat to the heart of the Gourmet Ghetto with the opening this summer of The Local Butcher Shop on Cedar Street in the old Red Hanger Kleaners space.

“We think there’s a void in the market for restaurant-quality, sustainable meat for home customers,” said Monica Rocchino, who is setting up the new retail operation with her husband.

“It’s an idea whose time has come. I’m looking forward to having this shop in the neighborhood,” said Michael Pollan, who lives in north Berkeley and has done much to champion the consumption of responsibly sourced meat.

The butcher shop will feature whole animals sourced directly from farms, none of which are further than 150 miles from Berkeley. The emphasis will be on grass-fed, sustainably raised meat, and the butchering and cutting will be to order.

“We won’t have a sea of chops and cuts in cases,” said Monica Rocchino, who sees part of their role as taking the intimidation factor out of shopping for meat. “We hope to have real dialogue with our customers — about the different parts of the animal and how to prepare them.”

Aaron Rocchino will be leaving Chez Panisse after five and a half years as one of the restaurant’s chefs. Before that, he worked at Oliveto. Although, like all Chez Panisse chefs, Rocchino worked across the food lines at the Alice Waters establishment, he has always been passionate about meat, and sees it as his speciality.

The Local Butcher Shop will join Berkeley’s two other independent procurers of meat, Magnanis on Hopkins and the Café Rouge butcher counter on Fourth Street. It will also compete for customers with larger retailers such as Berkeley Bowl and Whole Foods, not forgetting Andronico’s one of whose four Berkeley locations is across the street from the new store.

Construction work on The Local Butcher Shop, in the old Red Hanger Kleaner space on Cedar, has begun. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Monica Rocchino said theirs will be the only store which focuses on whole animals. And the intention is to use every last scrap of the beasts. “We’ll be selling stocks and soups, demi-glace, sauces and rendered fat, less common cuts, as well as a meat sandwich of the day,” she said. She adds that they will not sell frozen meat, unlike what is often on offer at farmers’ markets.

Construction on the new store began just over a week ago. The couple will be installing a full kitchen — demonstrations and butchery classes are on the agenda — as well as a walk-in cooler with windows. The style will be “retro meets rustic” Rocchino said, with a lot of reclaimed wood — and, befitting a butcher shop, it will be “very clean”.

For the foodies out there for whom provenance is paramount, Rocchino’s current list of farmers who will be supplying The Local Butcher’s Shop is: Mac Magruder of Ingel-Haven Ranch in Potter Valley, Moira Burke of Agricola in Dixon, Jack Rasmason of Weeks Ranch in Santa Rosa, Joe and Julie Morris of TO Ranch in San Juan Bautista, Hudson Ranch and Don Watson, both in Napa, Phillip Paine in Sonoma, Bill Niman of BN Ranch in Bolinas, Brent Wolfe of Wolfe Ranch in Vacaville, Mark Pasternak of Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio, Jim Reichard of Sonoma County Poultry in Penngrove, and Gleason Ranch in Bodega.

It remains to be seen whether Chez Panisse will source some or all of its meat order from its former employee.

The arrival of the store comes in the wake of a renewed interest in the provenance and break-down of meat — evidenced by the rise in butchery classes, blood-spattered feature articles in the New York Times, and even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recent declaration that, this year, “The only meat I’m eating is from animals I’ve killed myself.”

Monica Rocchino believes it’s all part of an increasing awareness of where one’s food comes from (thank you Michael Pollan for highlighting those corn-fed cows in their feed lots). “People want to feel good about what they are putting in their bodies,” she said.

Follow the progress of the new butcher shop, which hopes to open in August, on its Facebook page.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. We don’t need this place. What SF and the Bay needs is a butcher not an artisan meat grocer. I am so sick of over priced, grass fed, bla, bla, bla. All of that is great, but if you don’t age your meat it is irrelevant. Another pretentious SF shop. Great. I don’t want to buy your stock. I want my own homemade stock, and I WANT TO BE ABLE TO BUY THE BONES FOR IT. Most of these meat shops can’t give you marrow bones or oxtails b/c they don’t butcher their meat, it comes in cut. If you do find them, they charge an arm and a leg for SCRAPS!!! I saw chicken wings for $7.00 a pound yesterday. ARE YOU FRIGGING KIDDING ME? god I miss the east coast.

  2. I’m so happy about The Local Butcher Shop; I love Ver Brugge, but will be so happy to walk to the source of my whole duck! Wheeeeeeeee!

  3. I’m so happy about The Local Butcher Shop; I love Ver Brugge, but will be so happy to walk to the source of my whole duck! Wheeeeeeeee!

  4. Gene, it’s not so much a matter of grammar as one of usage…. But don’t let the detractors tell you that “farther” and “further” are interchangeable. They are so not. In the meantime, I applaud your sensitivity to English well used. You’re a part of a dying breed, quite literally. (I personally heed CMS, 16th Edition, and Merriam Webster’s Collegiate….)

  5. So, presumably, you can personally attest to the truth of this old aphorism:

     Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made…

  6. This is exciting and I can’t wait for it to open (I live a half a block away). I’ve been thinking about this idea for a long time now and I am glad to see someone else go through with it. I think it would be perfect for the Gourmet Ghetto.

    Maybe I can apply there for a weekend job -very few people know that even though I’m a legislative aide by day for a Berkeley Councilmember, I’ve actually worked at a butcher shop for more than 8 years at Ver Brugge’s Seafood and Meats on College ave (mainly as a summer and holiday job during school and now as a side gig to help out the owner).

    In fact, I still work 1 or 2 Sundays a month at Ver Brugge’s, which surprisingly can call a lot of Berkeley and Oakland politicals as clients.

  7. Yay! Cafe rouge is too far from me and Fatted Calf no longer comes to Berkeley farmers’ market. I love Andronico’s, and they have most of what I need, but I look forward to seeing what these guys will offer.

  8. A butcher without tofu products is engaging in discriminatory action. Vegans are clearly a suspect class.

  9. “It’s an idea whose time has come”???  Newsflash:  It is the only way we bought mean before grocery stores took over!  Now expensive butchers are putting the fat back into red meat that all the food police insisted we take out and charging us an arm and leg for it!

  10. Nonsense and humor aside, I am looking forward to patronizing this establishment and giving it a fair shake as our new “go-to” source for gourmet meats once it opens.  While it’s a universe away from the old school butcher “Lenny’s” which was nearby eons ago, I am glad to have a new source for meats.  Also, I am hoping the bones won’t be frozen and the marrow rancid.

    But, I have the strong feeling that with the high end, gourmet, Chez Panisse vibe and the small economy of scale, this place won’t appeal to the Ranch 99 budget conscious crowd which seems to be in the majority of Berkeleyside’s comment gang.

  11. That does make me think I won’t be looking forward to their discounted, week old section.

  12. Okay, problem solved.  Looks like the offending signage has been covered up with a Niman Ranch poster.

  13. Gene, that was pretentious–you need a quick refresher on the role of proscriptive syntax in language. And if you are going to be holier-than-thou, then be aware: one does not make a “grammatical error.” One makes grammar errors or errors in grammar. The word “grammatical,” an adjective, when modifying error is nonsensical. Obviously the error itself is agrammatical.

  14. Sorry, Gene. I don’t think you got this right.
    “Further” and “farther” are interchangeable, per Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. “Further” is an alternate spelling of “farther.” Per Webster’s, “further” also means “in addition: moreover,” but in this article it means “farther.” Its usage here is correct.
    I think the Berkeleyside staff  does a great job of editing their work. And the articles are fab!

  15. It’s a nice article.  However, I am disappointed that you used “further,” instead of “farther.”  I am a former English major at Cal who works in business.  Please let your copy editor know about that grammatical error.  I make grammatical errors, too, but journalists should maintain a higher standard.  Cheers.

  16. “We hope to have real dialogue with our customers — about the different parts of the animal and how to prepare them.”

    As a veteran of over 15 years working meat counters all I have to say to that is, “have fun with that.”

  17. I hope vegans will also be amply accommodated!  Will there be a selection of organically raised, locally farmed “mock” chicken, beef or pork as you find in some vegetarian oriented Chinese restaurant?  If not, I know someone who comments on this board occasionally who will raise a huge stink and hullabaloo…

  18. It’s outside the city limits, but I’m a fan of El Cerrito Natural Grocery’s meat counter.  But I’m glad for this unique addition to Berkeley. 

  19. I judge all retail ventures by one factor: access to an Andronico’s parking lot. Good location guys! 

  20. Ah well, another dagger in the in the heart of Andronicos.  By the way, love the posts from Bruce Love, I could have made this one equally side splitting!

  21. Magnani needs the competition


    My “beef” with Magnani’s is that they misrepresent their beef as
    “natural, hormone-free” when in fact it’s your run-of-the-mill Harris
    Ranch feedlot crap.  I’ve pointed this out to them several times, even
    gone to the trouble of printing out the information from the Harris
    Ranch web site and giving it to the manager which explains the
    difference, but they just grin and keep collecting their premium.  

    guys behind the counter confirmed to me that their beef is the
    blue-label Harris Ranch, which according to Harris is “tested for
    residue” by “random samples”.  Big difference between that at the sign
    hanging on the wall at Magnani’s that says “no hormones or antibiotics

  22. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.  Arrogant forecasts might come back to bite you.

  23. No matter what happens with this venture I am 100% confident in my forecast that 6 months from now, they are dead meat.