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Pioneering Portland Butcher Fred Carlo Has Died

The man behind Salumeria di Carlo — a farmers market and Portland restaurant stalwart for sausages and cured meats — died last week at the age of 72

Fred Carlo grills sausages, peppers, and onions on a flattop.
Fred Carlo at his farmers market stand.
Courtesy of Robert Ballato

Former Portland butcher Fred Carlo died on January 30 at the age of 72 from various health issues, longtime friend and former colleague Robert Ballato confirmed. He is survived by his sisters Claire and Maria.

Carlo was a pioneer of Portland’s early specialty meat movement — his sausage shop, Salumeria di Carlo, was located in the former Pastaworks space on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard in the late ‘80s, where he made Italian-style meats such sausages, porchetta, and prosciutto. “He commenced to do your conventional cold cuts, but he also began one of the city’s first fresh sausage programs,” Ballato says. “His hallmark was, every Friday, he would take a whole pig, head on, and he would make porchetta. That was kind of a tradition from the early days of fine foods grocery in Portland.”

Carlo’s interest in prosciutto sparked when he took a four-month trip through Italy and spent time with a family in San Daniele who made it. He eventually returned to Italy and apprenticed under world-renowned butcher Dario Cecchini in Panzano. Using local meat, Carlo cured his prosciutto in the back room of Pastaworks and sold it to notable West Coast chefs Barbara Figueroa and Alice Waters. He also shared his knowledge with Nostrana owner and chef Cathy Whims. “He was just very willing to help you,” Whims says. “And his sausage, more than any other butcher shop, reminded me of the sausages I eat in Italy.”

Carlo, a native of upstate New York, moved to Portland in the mid-‘80s. Prior to focusing his career on meat, he worked at Jake’s and the now-closed Delphina’s Pasta and Pizza. After his ex-wife bought him a sausage maker, he made sausage for his friends and eventually opened up a wholesale business at Hartung Meat Company, supplying sausage to Portland restaurants, New Seasons Market, and Elephant’s Delicatessen. In the 1990s, he worked the butcher counter at Northwest grocer City Market. He eventually scaled back on selling wholesale and operated a stand under the Salumeria di Carlo name at the Portland Farmers Market’s PSU location, where he sold sausage sandwiches.

Wellspent Market founder Jim Dixon has fond memories of vending side-by-side with Carlo at the market and shared a recipe of Carlo’s grandmother’s with Willamette Week in 2021. “For many years I was Fred’s neighbor at the Portland Farmers Market,” Dixon says. “I’d be selling olive oil and salt while Fred grilled his sausages a few feet away. While the market rules forbid vendors from drinking, during the cooler months one of us usually had a flask of whiskey we could add to our coffee. During the summer we’d have something cold stashed underneath the sausages in Fred’s cooler. On one particularly hot day I had a bottle of high-proof limoncello I’d made, and we were both drunk by noon.”

He is remembered by his friends and colleagues for his infectious smile and larger-than-life personality. Outside of his professional life, he was a voracious reader, a big sports fan who followed professional European soccer, and an avid traveler who loved to spend his winters in Central America.

“There was never a day where he didn’t have a smile on his face,” Ballato says. “There are so many of us that know one another only because we knew Fred.”

Update: June 2, 2023, 11:00 a.m.: A celebration of life for Fred Carlo will be held on June 11 from 1-4 p.m. at Cassidy’s Restaurant.