Help pours in for a butcher who is a cut above

Dionisio Silva at the Essex St. Market.  Photo by Zach Williams
Dionisio Silva at the Essex St. Market. Courtesy of Heritage Foods U.S.A.

BY ZACH WILLIAMS |  Lower East Side butcher Dionisio Silva has a big trip to look forward to once he exits the hospital.

The Essex St. Market regular has received more than $5,000 in donations since Sept. 17 to fund his first trip in three decades to his native Brazil, as well as offset ongoing medical costs. More than 90 friends, colleagues and customers participated at www.gofundme.com/silva — through the same Web site that hosted a successful fundraising effort earlier this year for the East Village’s Dr. David Ores.

Though they reached their stated goal online, the effort for Silva continues, according to Patrick Martins, owner of Heritage Foods U.S.A., which owns the shop at the market where Silva, 68, works.

“We have raised thousands of dollars to date, but for his healthcare and travel to Brazil we still need to raise much more,” Martins said.

Silva has worked in the market since 2001, first at Jeffrey’s Meat Market. After that longtime business folded, he became the head butcher at Heritage Meat Shop — based in the same location — an offshoot of Brooklyn-based Heritage Foods U.S.A.

Despite his medical problems, Silva said in a telephone interview from Bellevue Hospital that working at the market has been “awesome.” Community support keeps him thinking optimistically about his medical situation, he said.

“They are my family and best friends,” he said of his workmates. “I cannot complain because they’ve always been there for me.”

Silva has battled prostate cancer since 2001. Symptoms flared in recent months requiring him to lessen his presence at the market. Swelling in his legs has been particularly vexing, he said, and will have to be addressed before he can depart for Brazil to see a brother and daughter there.

His native country has undergone great change since Silva emigrated in the 1980s. This year’s World Cup and the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics are just two examples of Brazil’s increasing international prominence. When he left, his home region in the Amazon had yet to achieve statehood, he noted.

Though there is much too see once he arrives, Silva said specific plans for the Brazil trip will have to wait for now.

“It all depends on my health,” he said.

Friends describe Silva in both serious and jocular terms. His past exploits include a three-mile trek through a blizzard to deliver meat to a sick elderly woman. He also reportedly delivered a raw chicken to a co-worker’s musical performance as a joke.

What you see is what you get with Silva, according to Sharon Hoahing, an employee of Roni Sue’s Chocolate shop in the market. Silva rather enjoys coconut truffles, but not as conspicuously as Brazilian soccer, she added.

Talking “futbol” evidentially is serious turkey for him, according to Hoahing, as indicated by the flags and jerseys Silva brings out in support of his native country’s team.

“He listens if you talk about other teams, but you gotta be really careful ’cause you don’t want to push him too far,” she said.

A “bombastic” energy accompanies Silva at work, said Emilie Frohlich, who has worked with him for about two years.

Martins characterized him as a devoted employee who was a natural fit as Heritage Meat Market’s head butcher.

“Silva is a fantastic butcher and an honest man,” he said. “He is old school in both his craft and in his personal style.”

However, his traditional inclinations don’t necessarily extend to a conventional fashion sense, Martins noted.

“Silva wears the most colorful tiger- and alligator- motif shirts ever made by the textile industry or the reptile industry,” he said.