The shelves at T&F Pork Store were once filled with assorted Italian sausages, fresh mozzarella and other authentic Italian groceries that customers used to line up to buy. But now the shelves are mostly barren as new owners prepare to take over the store and delicatessen at month’s end.
Joey Carlino, the owner of T&F Pork Store, announced the sale on Facebook on Jan. 11. “It has been a true joy to serve the community of Valley Stream,” he wrote. “I love this town and its community. It gave my family and me a living.”
His father, Tommaso, was a Sicilian immigrant who opened the store at 230 Rockaway Ave. on July 27, 1976, after he worked at another store by the same name in Franklin Square. That store still exists, but is unaffiliated with the family-owned business.
Tommaso fell in love with Valley Stream because of its proximity to New York City, and its predominantly Italian community, Joey said. They moved to the neighborhood in 1981, when Joey was a year old. “From a baby this store has been an integral part of my life,” his Facebook post said.
Tommaso retired in 2005, but resisted letting go of the business. He didn’t want to go on vacation, and often went into the store to chat with customers — some he considered family members. He died in 2015. “He loved this store,” Joey told the Herald. “That was his passion.”
Joey took over the store after his dad’s retirement, even though his father wanted him to go to college. In 2016, when the business celebrated its 40th anniversary, Joey told the Herald that he would rather run his father’s business than go to college.
Now, however, he said it is time to relinquish control. “I decided I had to have a change of lifestyle and be able to go on vacation without worrying about the store 24/7,” said Joey, who’s now 38. He added that he would take a few months to decide on another career path.
Joey declined to name the new owners, but said he believed the store would remain a food establishment.
‘A staple’ of Valley Stream
In its heyday, T&F Pork Store was the only place for Valley Streamers to buy authentic Italian groceries, according to John Tufarelli, who worked in the store from 1981 to 1990. He said that it offered “homemade stuff you couldn’t get anywhere else,” and that the closest Italian grocery store was seven or eight miles away. “It was a staple of the neighborhood,” Tufarelli said.
Whenever Kathy Longenecker needed to entertain her Italian daughter-in-law and her family, she said, she would buy eggplant and sauce from T&F Pork Store and pretend she made it. “They loved my secret recipes,” she replied to a Facebook post about the sale.
For Tom Chen, the store offered a taste of authentic Italian food. He responded to a Herald social-media inquiry, writing that Joey introduced him to real mozzarella cheese. “It took me moving to Valley Stream to get a taste of the good stuff,” he said.
But over the years, the demographics of Valley Stream shifted, and eventually, Tufarelli said, the “wants and needs” of the community changed, while T&F faced more competition from online grocers. In spite of this, he said, “The store, for me, was always the best of the best.”