My, my, my… this year went by so quickly, didn’t it?! With all the craziness’ and strife in the world today, I wanted to take the opportunity to do something a little light hearted and fun this Christmas Season here in my column.

I have two fun Christmas feel good offerings for you all in this special holiday edition of the Berry!
Let us begin our holiday trip with a visit I recently made to Mario’s Meat & Deli. While there I visited my friend and everyone’s favorite butcher, Mr. Joe DiGangi. Joe is owner & operator of Mario’s Meat & Deli; he was gracious enough to open his doors to me and do an interview for the Juniper Berry’s Holiday Edition!

For those of you who do not know him, Joe is an all-around great guy, fantastic businessman and true stalwart of the Middle Village business community. I first interviewed Joe back during the pandemic days and we had a great conversation about the impact all that unprecedented mayhem had on his business and on him personally. If you have the chance look up that article as it has some awesome historical contrast. That said, in the years since that interview, Mario’s has embarked on a very interesting and even more entertaining social media content creation project that I find fascinating.

Now, I know what you all are thinking; The Italian Deli/Meat Market is not the place you would automatically equate with modern day technology, however that’s exactly what Joe has done through his hilarious original videos starring Artie the Butcher and many other local celebrities and colorful personalities. These videos have generated a tremendous buzz, helping grow the online presence of the business inside and outside of the immediate neighborhood. I firmly believe that any effort that highlights your neighborhood, business and personal passion and talents all while making us laugh, that is a stroke of brilliance. Especially as the world goes more and more digital in our on-demand economy. I love to see our hometown business men and woman innovating and growing.

During our most recent interview, I asked Joe what was most important to him at this sacred time of year. He really focused in on how much his customers mean to him and his staff. How serving the greater Middle Village area of Queens is an honor to him and carrying his business into the future, always mindful of honoring the legacy of his legendary father, the man who set the highest standards for service & dedication to quality which really drives Joe to this day. I asked him about what Christmas means to him and he immediately replied; “Family, to me Christmas means family.” As we continued to talk about the business side of the Christmas Season and what it was all about for him, his answer was straight forward and to the point; “Our customers are our #1 concern. Providing them our very best service and delivering the most quality, highest grades of meats and other unique specialty items are what we do best.” I asked him to tell me what his #1 holiday fan favorite was. He said; “unequivocally our fully prepared and oven ready roasts. From filet mignon, prime rib to veal roasts and everything in between his customers come from far and wide for their must have holiday favorites. In closing, Joe, and the whole gang down at Mario’s want to wish everyone A Very Merry Christmas and Happy & Blessed New Year!

To close out our interview I had to ask Joe to give me his famous tag line so here it goes;
“Cheap Food Isn’t Good; Good Food Isn’t Cheap!”

The following is a short Christmas story written by yours truly. This story is inspired by a snapshot of an imaginary day in the life a handful of Maspeth and Middle Village residents on the day before Christmas. I wrote this to let all the businesses and business owners in our community that we love them! Our small and large businesses alike make our communities the thriving places they are. It is you, the owners and operators who are so dedicated to serving our community that are the unsung heroes of our daily lives. I hope you enjoy my short original Christmas story.

Twas The Day Before Christmas
Twas the day before Christmas and all through the town, preparations were underway. Oh, it is Christmas and it is about to go down!

As Johnny boy leaves Russo’s on Maspeth Ave with a cappuccino and sfogliatella he ran with a dash to Enchanted Florist to pick up the centerpiece and mistletoe for the door sash.

Up the block who did I see, it was Frankie running into to Continental Pastry for the Bread Pretzels and pies. Around the corner at Shelly’s Deli, the baskets of cheer were being whisked out the door and up the block at Key Food there were food shoppers, shoppers, shoppers galore!

Across the expressway and up on Grand there stood Frank, Mary, Jackie, and Stan eagerly waiting with numbers in hand at the famous Iavarone Brothers. Across the Avenue there was Jan and Stew, Mark, and Elenore picking up their treasures at the Gemelli Jewelry Store.

Next, I was off with a hurry to wee Nicky at the 69th Street Beverage, after loading up my “sleigh” with various adult beverages it was a quick trip to Maspeth Federal to replenish the funds and off to Middle Village for more Christmas Season fun!

Off I went to the Little Italy of Queens, Middle Village – Metropolitan Avenue and 78th Street to be precise. First off to Rosa’s for a slice nicey-nice. Next off to Mario’s Meat & Deli, to my excitement there were Joe, Artie and the gang with hot espresso, pounds of specialty salads and prime rib roast beautifully dressed by Artie himself.

In a flash I was off to Joe’s Fish Market for the 7 Fishes not to mention across the street to Joe’s bakery for bread by the loaves! Finally, a last-minute stop at C-Town for a few things to enhance the spread. I’ve shopped ‘til I dropped and cannot wait to feast with my loved one’s and celebrate the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Once the celebrating comes to an end without a shadow of a doubt……. IT’S OFF TO BED!

God Bless you all this Christmas Season, may we all keep the spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts all the yearlong! May your 2024 be your best year yet!!