Since 1922, the Nardelli's name has been synonymous with generous, authentic, Italian-style grinders. Today, the sandwich shop voted the best in Connecticut for more than a decade is opening a franchise on Route 66 in Middletown, at the site of the former Dunkin' Donuts on Washington Street.
, with five locations throughout the Greater Waterbury area, comes to Central Connecticut with franchisee Steven Katz, former manager of the Waterbury spot, at the helm.
"It’s [my] next step in life," Katz says of launching his own place. "I was going to either do something up here with the Nardelli’s brand or open a hot dog stand, a deli or full-service restaurant. Nardelli’s had the name; it was the brand. It’s one step easier for me to open."
Katz has worked for Nardelli’s on and off for eight years. He was born and raised in the Bronx and later worked in Manhattan in the restaurant business. He came to Connecticut in 1998.
Like Waterbury, Katz says, Middletown has a large Italian population, many of whom he plans to attract with fresh salads, lasagna, stuffed eggplant and gourmet desserts like large cannolis and cheesecake burritos, as well as Italian meats and cheeses. Shelves are stocked with antipasto and cooking items like jarred sauces, peppers and mushrooms, mustards, vinegar and canned tomatoes.
Many have already heard the Nardelli’s name as the business has been voted best grinder shop in Connecticut for 11 straight years in Connecticut Magazine's Best of Connecticut edition, and Nardelli's has been featured on national television on the Travel Channel’s "Sandwich Paradise" segment.
The company is owned by second generation matriarch Rina Nardelli and third-generation siblings Anthony Nardelli, Diana Nardelli-Troiano and Marco Nardelli.
"Steve has been in food service his entire life," Marco says. "He knows what it takes to run a successful business."
The menu has offerings for every appetite, including large grinders like baked stuffed pastrami, the Italian combo, the Nardelli’s-style turkey club, and sausage and peppers.
Katz has no qualms about opening a business on this busy commercial stretch of Route 66, where left-hand turns onto and off Washington Street often mean waiting a few minutes until a pause in vehicle traffic.
"Dunkin' Donuts was here for 45 years. If [customers] were hungry for coffee and a donut, they made the turn," Katz says.
"I’m hoping they’ll make the streets wider like further down [going west on Route 66 towards Middlefield] or a painted island in the middle where you can take a left-hand turn."
The franchisee thought strategically when he cased out the location for his grinder shop. "People who come up Washington Street going to work [in Middletown] will go to Dunkin' Donuts [the new location further west on Washington Street] to have breakfast. I’m going to catch them for lunch and dinner as they’re leaving," Katz says.
He also hopes to appeal to the Wesleyan University crowd, as the shop is located just past the intersection of Washington and Vine Street and within walking distance of off-campus apartments.
In late spring, the seventh site will open in the site of the former Quizno’s Sub Shop in the Oxford Depot at 84 Oxford Road, or Route 67.
Nardelli's Grinder Shoppe, 396 Washington St., Middletown, is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday. Call (860) 346-6666.