My knives had been half-dull for an embarrassingly long by the time I carted them into the shop of the two Richard De Vitos (senior and junior) for a sharpen. I slid them across the counter while making excuses, but the younger De Vito was unfazed by their state. "This is a nice knife," he pronounced, while turning my 21-year-old Wusthof chef's knife in his hands. I felt almost flattered. These guys have handled thousands of blades: They were part of a generational line of knife sharpeners who once owned Delbon Cutlery in midtown Manhattan, where chefs dropped in constantly from 1840 on -- as did (much later) Wolfgang Wusthof. "He was a super sharp dresser," said De Vito Sr.
The business moved to Centereach in the 1980s, closed in the 1990s, then opened again in 2014 as Sunrise Sharpening in West Babylon. Now the De Vitos are back in Centereach, where in May they opened the next incarnation of their business: We Make It Sharp, a spare storefront with a knife-sharpening counter in the back.
Decades ago, knife sharpening was much more accessible than it is now; mostly Italian-American sharpeners, called moletas, might roam city blocks in trucks, pushing wheelbarrows or even with a grinding stone in a wood frame strapped to their back, ringing a bell to announce their presence.
Without knowing where to bring my knives, I'd been using various hand sharpeners to mediocre effect -- but that paled compared to what was about to go down. De Vito Jr. immediately got to work, dragging the blade of my chef's knife over the electric grinding wheel out back, sending off sparks and a high-pitched whine. As a burr, or overhanging wire edge, became visible, he turned the knife to do the other side. In the front, his dad — technically retired, but clearly still engaged with the business — ran another of my knives back and forth across a red India sharpening stone. In 10 minutes, all of my knives were sharpened and polished, wrapped in newspaper and ready to go.
Knife sharpening costs $1 an inch, and the De Vitos also tackle swords, axes, cleavers, hunting knives, hair and upholstery shears and clipper and lawn mower blades; your serrated bread knife can gain a shiny edge, too, though these cost $2 extra. De Vito Jr. makes house calls in his truck, but later this summer will launch a mobile sharpening unit; also this summer, the family will begin selling knives at their shop.
Back home, it was sheer pleasure to slice through an onion as if it were butter.
We Make It Sharp opens at 10 a.m. during the week and 11 a.m. on weekends, with varying closing hours. Find it at 1800 Middle Country Rd. in Centereach; 631-766-2111, we-make-it-sharp.business.site.