NORTH SALEM, N.Y. — No matter how much you pay for a knife, "it's only as good as it cuts," says Robert Ambrosi, owner of North Salem's Ambrosi Cutlery . "A sharp knife cuts clean and the product retains its juices, where most of the nutrients and flavors are. When you slice thin, the food tastes better and it looks better."
It was Robert Ambrosi's immigrant grandfather who started the business in the early 1900's, trudging Manhattan's streets with a grinding wheel mounted on a horse-drawn cart. "In those days, a knife-sharpener called at butcher shops, delis, restaurants and homes, staking out his territory. Once you staked your claim, other sharpeners respected it."
Eventually a truck replaced the horse and cart and then a shop replaced the truck and a delivery van joined the organization.
The business passed on to Robert's father, who had about 250 customers, and then to Robert, who now has six times as many. Names you will recognize include Fairway, Applebee's, the Capital Grille and Yankee Stadium. Robert's two sons, Mark and Jason, are already on deck to take over some day.
The art of knife-sharpening has not changed over the years, said Ambrosi. "It's still the human hand and the grindstone. You need good eye-hand coordination and you need to know when enough is enough. We remove the minimal amount of metal. That's where the eye comes in.
"You need just the right amount of pressure to create a maximum edge-width proper thinness and the right angles, " he continued. "Now we have machines that do both sides at once, so it speeds up the process a little."
How to choose the right knife? "It's subjective. You have to take the one that feels most comfortable in your hand."
Although 98 percent of his business is commercial, Ambrosi welcomes small personal jobs. How often should you have your knives sharpened? "You can go well over a year but —" he emphasizes, "— you have to learn how to use a sharpening steel." Ambrosi will be glad to teach you. Just click here .
Ambrosi Cutlery is located at 55 Fields Lane, 617-8444.
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