When Hub Hall launched at TD Garden last month, it promised a mix of newer food vendors and iconic local businesses. One of the oldest is Bianco & Sons, a butcher shop that opened in Revere in 1960.
Since then, the third-generation business has provided sausages to Boston-area restaurants behind the scenes, ultimately growing from 30 employees to roughly 75 and relocating to Medford.
Now it’s their turn to shine: Their Hub Hall stall serves sausage sandwiches and longtime family recipes. Grandson (and chief financial officer) Joseph Bianco III, 28, shares how the meat is made.
My grandfather is the one who started it back about 60 years ago. He owned a small butcher shop, got into making sausages in this very small retail store, and then he moved a couple blocks down the road, back in Revere.
He got into doing more wholesale [for] restaurants, and stuff like that, and sausage was the main product. We did everything, though: steaks, chicken, lamb. And then my dad took over when he was about 18, right out of high school, and started taking things to a whole other level than our grandfather did, trying to grow the business anywhere he could, basically.
And then, in the early 2000s, we started getting into supermarkets and more bigger distributors. And as soon as me and my siblings got out of school and everything, we started getting more full-time involved and trying to take things even to the next level beyond what our father did.
Did you always know you were going to go into the family business?
Yeah. I think all three of us knew that. We all used to work here growing up as young kids. So, I mean, it wasn’t like you just started after school. We’ve been working here since we were little.
Let’s talk about Hub Hall. Was it challenging to pivot from sausages to takeout sandwiches?
That, obviously, is new to us. We just opened September 13. It’s been a couple of years since it was supposed to open. We’re selling ready-to-eat sausage sandwiches. We’re basically coming up with all these new menu items and have been trying to, you know, slowly add new things in over time [with chef Scott Drago].
We had crazy ideas a couple years ago with our menu options pre-pandemic, and we have a test kitchen here in Medford where we basically did a lot of our menu creations, trying to come up with what made the most sense to sell and what else tasted good. Our biggest seller is the Classic, which is just Italian sausage with peppers and onions. One of our kind of staple items on the menu is called the Hogfather, which is Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, provolone cheese. It’s really a popular seller there, and it looks really good, too. I try to keep our family tradition menu items. … We make homemade meatballs here in Medford, so we’ve just added that to our menu: beef meatballs, marinara sauce, and mozzarella cheese.
Obviously, COVID-19 was hard on restaurants — but also hard on places like Time Out Market Boston and those big food halls that are really based on people gathering together. How has that affected Hub Hall?
I think there was a lot more stress and concern, at least from our end and everyone else in the food hall, and in the restaurant industry in general, over the last couple years when things were closed down and reopening: What’s it going to be like? Staffing? So many concerns all over the place.
But now that it’s open, we’re getting in the flow of it. We’ve got a good staff there. The menu items are working well. It’s been good. It’s only been a few weeks, but I think once the events at TD Garden start to become more regular, obviously more foot traffic [will be] going through there. It’s going to take off for the whole food hall and hopefully around the city as well.
Plant-based and cell-based meat is on the rise. Sausage seems like the purest form of meat-meat. What do you think the role of sausage is, food-wise, in the future?
I think that the trend obviously has become more popular over the past few years. Occasionally, people ask us here if we have anything plant-based or not meat, but obviously we don’t.
But as far as where do we see what we need to make and how do we see that in the future going? I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. I don’t want to use the word old-school, but I feel like that need for a product I guess you could say isn’t going to go away. I know chicken sausage has become a lot more popular over the years as well for people just wanting something maybe a little healthier than pork. We make chicken sausages, too. We’re pretty diversified as far as our product options go in Medford or even what we can offer at the food hall, with pork or chicken and even with marinated meats and stuff.
I think it’s just creating more options for the consumer.
What are some misperceptions about sausage?
That’s a tough question. We’re known for Italian sausage, but there are so many different types of sausages out there. One is that we make everything Italian-style. We make a Chinese-style sausage that’s really, really popular with pork. There are plenty of types of sausages.
What about being in a family business? Do you ever feel like: I’m going to move to California and become a surfer? Or was this your dream?
I personally really enjoy it. I think my siblings and my father all can say the same. You know, it’s good working with family. Everyone’s working toward the same goal. It’s not like you’re just working a job. This is our livelihood; this is what we’re doing to work together.
Where do you eat in your free time?
In the North End, one place I like is Limoncello. Monica’s has good food. We do business with both of them. I like to go to Ocean Prime in the Seaport. Even quick food, I’ve been going to all the places in Hub Hall, testing everything out. I haven’t had one bad meal from anywhere else in Hub Hall. There’s pizza, there’s roast beef, tacos, burgers, everything.
Growing up, we used to sell to Bianchi’s in Revere Beach. It was around the corner from us. That was a really popular pizza place we went to growing up.
How did the pandemic affect your supply chains?
Obviously, the supermarkets were insanely busy. We set up some new business in supermarkets, and even the existing business just got so much busier. We also have a small retail store here in Medford, so we were doing curbside orders — an insane amount of sales that we weren’t expecting to happen.
But we constantly ran into the supply chain issue, where everyone’s calling us looking for chicken, ground beef, steak, sausage. We never really had an issue as far as making and supplying sausages. But other stuff, you just couldn’t get it. Prices obviously skyrocketed last year, and they’ve still been on the high side, and they’re still constantly going up and down with larger increases and decreases over the last year and a half.
We actually ended up hiring more help, too, with the product demand. It definitely impacted us, but I would say overall in a positive way. We obviously had a big scare the first couple of weeks because everything initially slowed down, and everyone stopped ordering. No one bought anything because everyone thought it was going to be this two- or three-week quarantine where everyone just goes home, doesn’t do anything, and then we were going to go back to normal. But really, that wasn’t the case. So I think after a week, when people realized it’s going be a lot longer than two weeks, is when everyone started to kind of panic.
Is sausage a panic-buy?
We were having people call us up for 20 pounds of chicken breast, 30 pounds of ground beef, and all this sausage. The next week, they’d call for the same thing. Where did all this food go in the last seven days? We were getting a lot of repetitive orders from the same people, just on our retail side of things, but even supermarkets. It’s crazy what they were ordering.
Favorite sausage dish?
One we’re serving at Hub Hall: a sausage orecchiette. We make it with chicken sausage at the food hall, but I like it with pork sausage better, with broccoli rabe, white beans, and parmesan cheese.
People always ask how sausage is made. Or maybe the joke is, you don’t want to know how the sausage is made. So: How is the sausage made?
I get that some people seem grossed out by it. But, I mean, the process is pretty simple. You know, the meat gets ground up, and then the ground meat gets mixed with spices, and then it just goes right into a sausage stuffer and just comes out in the casing. It’s kind of easier said than done.
We try and make it in small batches so that nothing can get messed up and that it’s always consistent.
Cookies and milk. Oreos.