Our story, like many great American success stories, begins in another country on another continent. It’s the late 1800’s and young Anthony LaFrieda, our great-grandfather, gets into a fistfight outside a butcher shop in Naples, Italy. Having been bested, Anthony sits on the curb crying with a fresh black eye. The owner of the butcher shop takes pity on Anthony and brings him a steak to put over his eye, as they did in the old days. Anthony, who is still quite upset, says to the butcher, “My father is gonna kill me because I got into a fight.” The butcher says to him, “Tell your father that you may have lost the fight, but you got yourself a job.” They taught Anthony the trade of butchery and he quickly learned that he had a talent and passion for it. He would bring the trade with him when he emigrates to the U.S. in 1909.
In 1922, Anthony LaFrieda opens a butcher shop in Brooklyn, NY. He runs the shop with his five sons, one of whom is Patrick LaFrieda the first, our grandfather. All five boys learn the trade and become butchers. In 1950, a meat workers’ strike makes it difficult for New York City restaurants to get the meat they need. Our grandfather and his brother seize the opportunity and begin servicing restaurants. They open a shop in New York City’s meatpacking district on West 14th Street. The shop is on the second floor of a building with no elevator, so they have to carry 200-pound hind saddles of beef on their backs, up a flight of stairs — no easy task.
In 1964, Pat LaFrieda the first and his son Pat LaFrieda the second (our father, known today as Pat Sr.) take full ownership over LaFrieda Meats from our great-uncle Louis LaFrieda, and change the name to Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors. Our father is only 18 years old at this point, but he had been working in the butcher shop since age 12. As business grew, the shop changed locations from West 14th Street, to Little West 12th Street, and then to Bleecker Street. In 1980, the company moves to its home of 30 years on a block-long property on Leroy Street (the street would later be renamed to Pat LaFrieda Lane).
It is during the 80s on Leroy Street where Pat LaFrieda the third (Pat Jr.) begins to learn the trade at age 12. Pat Jr. showed the same passion and talent for butchery that his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father had before him. However, Pat Sr., knowing the long hours and sacrifices necessary to make it in the meat business, warned Pat Jr. from following in their footsteps. Despite Pat Sr.’s objections, Jr. enters the business in the mid 90s with a new vision that would shape the future of the company. We would work directly with restaurants to ensure that they are getting the best possible product that is cut and portioned exactly to their specifications. We would help our customers develop products that showcase their creativity as chefs. We would operate as if their customers are our own. It was this vision that led to the creation of the first custom burger blends that has made us famous all over the country.
Although Leroy Street felt like home, we had outgrown the space. In 2010, the company moved to our new home on Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen, NJ. This facility was designed from the ground up by Pat Sr. to allow us to efficiently serve our ever-growing list of customers. Out of this new 36,000 square-foot facility, we process meat that feeds over 300,000 people a day. We make over 75,000 hamburgers a day from hundreds of custom blends. We have two dry-aging rooms that house 5,000-6,000 (sub)primal cuts of meat, the equivalent of over 80,000 steaks.