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Michael Mongelli: Flushing butcher saw his customers as friends

Michael Mongelli, on the job. He died April

Michael Mongelli, on the job. He died April 23 from the coronavirus. Credit: Mongelli family

A man of brawn, Michael Mongelli, in his hefty prime, could lift and flip sides of beef — 190 pounds each — over his shoulders without blinking. 

Each morning for decades, he would haul prime cuts of meat from Manhattan’s packing district to his Flushing butcher shop for his loyal customers — making it a neighborhood mainstay of coffee and friendship.

Mongelli, 86, died April 23 of COVID-19, his son said.

“He was loving man with great energy, who lit up a room with his big smile,’’ said Michael Mongelli, 59, of Roslyn, referring to his father. “He was never afraid to be himself.’’

In the 1970s, the elder Mongelli set up a wooden church pew for his customer-friends who sat comfortably sipping coffee as the butcher sliced the best prime cuts of beef, ribs and veal legs into paper-thin cutlets.

“He had a great eye for New York prime,’’ Michael Mongelli said, adding that his father’s radar always detected the best marble meat to claim with his hook and ink stamp at the 14th Street packing houses in lower Manhattan.

The owner of Michael’s Prime Meats on 162nd Street, the elder Mongelli never shied away from hard work. He learned his vocation at the age of 10 when his father died. Growing up in Astoria, Queens, he worked at butcher shops to help support his mother and three siblings.

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After closing his shop for the day, Mongelli would spend many nights renovating neighborhood buildings and homes he turned into real estate properties.

“Three, four nights a week we pulled down, put up dry wall, framed out rooms, put in windows … all self taught,’’ his son said.

Mongelli left behind a working man’s legacy of building projects, like the cherry wood book shelves for his son's law office the two built together.

Along with his son Michael, Mongelli is survived by his wife, Barbara Martini, another son, Lawrence, and seven grandchildren.

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