A Paean to Germana: The Guido’s Butcher
Germana Sachs, the beloved butcher at Guido's in Great Barrington
Like any good butcher, Germana Sachs has rough hands and a thick skin. But what makes Germana a great butcher is that she’s also got a tender heart. “I enjoy making people happy,” she says softly and sincerely. “That’s my special trade.”
Germana, who resembles the actress Lily Tomlin, has been butchering in the Berkshires for 30 years. “I started slicing cold cuts for the Mazzeo Family in Pittsfield when I was 19,” says Germana. “I learned a lot from Rudy and his brother Patsy.” For the past dozen years, she has been behind the Mazzeo’s meat counter at Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington, where many customers think of her as the store’s unofficial mascot. She hand-makes all of the store’s hot and sweet Italian pork and breakfast sausages (which you’ll also find atop the pizza at Baba Louie’s.) The sausages, as well as the kebabs she assembles, are especially popular during grill season. “We sold 500 pounds of sausage over Memorial Day weekend,” she says, noting that summer is not her busiest season. “Christmas and New Year’s are the worst. We have huge lines. People want special things—filets and prime ribs, crown roasts of pork and lamb.” Germana prefers steak, preferably a ribeye, which she likes to prepare with a dry rub of black pepper, garlic, cayenne, paprika and salt. “Mix it up, rub it on the meat and let it sit on the counter so it’s at room temperature. Never put a cold steak on a hot grill.”
Born in Italy where she watched the women pluck the feathers from just-killed chickens as a child, Germana moved to the US when she was nine. (She now lives in Copake, NY with her husband.) She maintains an uncomplicated, Old World instinct for good food. “I am not a chef like some of the guys I work with,” she says, though she is always advising customers on how to prepare chops or a roast. “I’ve never had anyone come back and tell me that I told them the wrong thing to do,” she says her eyes widening, as if just realizing what an essential service she provides. As for Guido’s tri-state clientele, she admits to having favorites: “The customers who speak to me in Italian—I love that,” she says. Though Guido’s attracts many free-spending weekenders, Germana says she knows that many of the midweek senior customers (who take advantage of Guido’s senior discount on Mondays -Wednesdays) have modest incomes, and she encourages them to try less expensive cuts of meat. Her default recommendation is boneless sirloin. “You can do anything with it,” she says.
Though the butcher department is owned by the Mazzeo family (who lease space from the Masiero brothers who owns Guido’s), Germana takes pride in it as if her name were over the counter instead of theirs, which has made her a local legend. “After 30 years, people know me,” says Germana as she fingers the gold cross she wears around her neck. “I’m not better than anybody else but the customers respect me. It’s nice to be respected.”