Fiorella's 1901 brass National Cash Register has gone missing

Update 8 p.m.: The register has been recovered. According to Vetri on Instagram, it was found by Dennis Boyce Karlie and Brian Lawlor at an antique shop.

“They did pay for it,” Vetri told Billy Penn, “but they would not take money from me. Restores my faith in humanity.”

Original story:

The antique cash register that decorated the counter at longtime Italian Market icon Fiorella’s Sausage for more than 100 years has gone missing.

Its disappearance was first noted on Friday, May 10, according to chef Marc Vetri, who purchased the meat shop and building from fourth-generation proprietor Dan Fiorella last fall. Fiorella was the one who made the unhappy discovery.

“I was actually meeting Dan over there this [morning] to talk about stuff,” Vetri told Billy Penn, “and he walked in first. He said, ‘Where’s the register?’ And I was like, “What?!?!?!”

There was no sign of a break in at the storefront near 8th and Christian streets, Vetri clarified. An on-site lockbox accessible by construction contractors working on the extensive renovations needed at the building did hold keys to the space.

The tally box, a National Cash Register made in 1901, was originally purchased by Fiorella’s great-grandfather Luigi from one of the area’s first car dealerships. Weighing in at 220 pounds, it was one of the last made of solid brass (as opposed to brass-plated nickel), and the family had it coated in clear plastic to preserve its appearance.

An appraiser once visited the shop and offered to buy it, according to Fiorella.

“Said in his estimation, it’s worth around $5,000,” Fiorella recounted in 2015, “I said you’re not buying that for $5,000. He said how about $6,000? I says, it’s not for sale! He said everything has a price, give me a number? I said ok, pay for my daughter’s wedding. And he didn’t say nothing after that.”

The register was in full working order, and even trilled out a signature “Ring-ring!” when orders were tallied — although attempts to replace broken buttons were foiled because the manufacturer long ago discontinued their production, Fiorella said.

Now, it’s gone. “I’m pissed,” Vetri said. “I would like it back.”

To that end, he’s offering an amnesty deal: Return the register in good condition and there will be no penalties, and no questions asked.

“If you just need the money,” Vetri wrote on Instagram, “send me a ransom note and I will pay to get it back.”

Aside from the register, Vetri said things are progressing well on the revamp of the shop, and that he expects to announce a new name and more details sometime this month.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...