Gourmet steaks and seafood stolen from Bronx bodegas

Thieves are brazenly seizing porterhouse steaks and other big-ticket items from well-stocked grocery stores in Manhattan and selling their ill-gotten gains to bodegas in the Bronx and elsewhere, fish grocers tell The Post.

It’s a confluence of two burning issues: the steep price hikes retailers — and their customers — are facing as inflation is stuck at 40-year highs, and the heartbreaking antics seen across the country, as some say so encourages theft.

As for inflation, it’s so off the charts that grocer Tony Citarella is now selling crabmeat at $99 a pound, up from around $35 just six months ago.

And for the flights? Some stores don’t even stock the most expensive items anymore, because they’re ripe for shoplifters.

“I’m not going to approach that kind of stuff,” Morton Williams meat and fish buying director Victor Colello told The Post of the increasingly expensive crab. “It’s too expensive and you just have to sit on the shelves or walk out the door.”

Citarella owner Joe Gurrera told the Post that seafood prices have been high for months. In its stores, wild crab meat is $99 a pound, wild crab claws and lobster meat are $89.99 a pound, and wild Nantucket Bay scallops are $79 a pound.

A buyer from Morton Williams told the Post he refuses to risk buying some of the more expensive seafood.
Marcus Santos

He cites supply chain problems that are hampering work across the world – and helping to drive up prices: fish and other seafood stuck on ships in port and demand soaring amid staffing issues . Higher gasoline prices increase transportation costs and also affect the posted price.

At Morton Williams, Colello calculates that an 8-ounce lobster tail now costs $32 a pound, wholesale, which would be about $60 a pound retail. Prices across the store have risen 30 to 60 percent over the past month, he says. And sales are down 15% to 20%. So he’s content to steer clear of most high-end seafood, he says.

Pedestrians passing a Citarella store
Wild Nantucket Bay scallops jumped to $79 a pound at Manhattan’s Tony Citarella.
Gabriella Bass

“You see it for yourself. The prices are crazy. What are you supposed to eat? That’s why shoplifting is so bad,” Colello said, adding that some Rite Aids around New York City have already announced closures due to extreme shoplifting, as reported. The Post last week.

Avi Kaner, CEO and co-owner of Morton Williams, said in his 25 years at the grocer he had never seen so many thefts.

“They arrive with garbage bags to steal for profit and sell the goods to unscrupulous companies,” he said, alleging that a large part of the stolen items end up on the shelves of small bodegas in the city. Bronx and elsewhere.

The Rite Aid logo on a store
Shoplifting plagues even pharmacies – Rite Aid, for example, has closed some New York locations.
Christopher Sadowski

Colello, Kaner’s meat and fish manager, said last Saturday they caught a guy stealing $150 in sirloin steaks and $200 in candles.

“He said supermarkets and bodega owners in the Bronx and elsewhere are paying $5 a steak and candle,” Colello said.

Meanwhile, costs are driving paying customers away from fish and other seafood, grocers say — just as people have turned back to cooking and cooking during the pandemic.

A lobster tank
Shellfish lovers might want to buy the whole lobster — the meat costs $89.99 a pound, Citarella told the Post.
Gabriella Bass

“People were buying fish like crazy,” Colello said. “But now they avoid fish. It’s just too expensive. In 10 years as a purchasing manager, I have never raised prices so much like this. In the last three months, I have raised more prices than in the last 10 years.

We learn… that Nami Nori from New York is launching a Hawaiian pop-up from February 11 to 24 at Mauna Lani, an Auberge Resorts Collection hotel.

This is the first hotel collaboration for Japanese hotspot temaki (hand-rolled), which launched in Greenwich Village in 2019. How popular is it? There are still lines to get in – and now he now has an outpost in Williamsburg.

    Japanese temaki
Japanese temaki fans will see opportunities “arise”.

The Mauna Lani pop-up includes a temaki dinner and cooking class led by Nami Nori’s partner chef, Taka Sakaeda, and a five-piece Temaki set to take to Mauna Lani’s central Surf Shack hub off Kona . That’s good, because Nami Nori means “surfing the wave” in Japanese.

“The sophisticated and island atmosphere of Mauna Lani immediately appealed to us. We’ve always envisioned Nami Nori as our little oasis in the big city, so being able to bring what we do into a real oasis is like a dream come true,” Lisa Limb, Managing Partner of Nami Nori, told The Post.

Dino S. Williams