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Maine Restaurant Could Bring Doughnut Grilled Cheese Sandwiches to East Boston

Sammy Carlo’s, a daytime East Boston deli, is partnering with a seasonal restaurant in Maine to bring drinks and dinner to Bennington Street

A grilled cheese sandwich on a doughnut instead of bread dangles from a hook above a bowl of tomato bisque, cheese dripping down from the sandwich to the soup.
A doughnut grilled cheese sandwich with tomato bisque at Food for Thought in Ogunquit, Maine
Food for Thought/Facebook

An East Boston deli known for its breakfast and lunch menus along with its selection of Italian cold cuts and groceries is attempting to partner with a restaurant called Food for Thought out of Ogunquit, Maine, to bring dinner and drinks to the deli space at 567 Bennington St.

Sammy Carlo’s Delicatessen and Catering owner Steve Scire recently met with the Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) to pitch the proposal. The meeting with the HVNA was a success, Scire told Eater, and the association approved the proposal. Scire also noted that abutters gave their blessing. (It can be difficult to get a neighborhood’s blessing in East Boston.) Scire is currently in the process of petitioning the City of Boston for a beer and wine license.

If all goes to plan, Sammy Carlo’s — which is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday — would transform from a deli and catering shop into a full-service restaurant for dinner, run by Food for Thought owner Jay Grey and executive chef Bradley Andries. The businesses would be separate entities; Food for Thought would pay rent to Scire, who owns the space.

Scire has been thinking of a way to utilize the space since he renovated it several years ago, he told Eater. He talked to his wife Kathy about hosting pop-ups, but an idea finally galvanized when the two shared a meal at Food for Thought while vacationing in Ogunquit. After the meal, Scire came up with a plan and approached the Food for Thought team before heading back south toward East Boston.

“They’re killing it up there,” said Scire. “I admire the fact that [Grey] started the place from nothing. He took an empty blacktop parking lot and turned it into a restaurant.”

Scire also said that he was impressed by how much Grey gives back to the Ogunquit community.

“In Maine we gave away five percent of our profits to help combat opioid addiction in the state,” Grey told the East Boston Times-Free Press. “We want to be here for a long time and we want to be a part of this community. If we are able to open in East Boston we will donate five percent of our proceeds back into the neighborhood. We’ve been successful in Maine and five percent wasn’t going to make us or break us so here in East Boston we know the same will be true but that five percent can really help the community.”

Sammy Carlo’s has deep roots in East Boston. Scire’s grandfather Carmelo opened a shop on Drake Place in 1927 after emigrating from Sicily, Italy. He eventually moved his shop to Bennington Street before moving to yet another location on Bennington Street. Scire’s father Samuel — known to everyone in East Boston as Sammy — took the reins of the family business in the 1950s and moved it to its current location at 567 Bennington St. in 1974.

Scire told Eater that the folks from Food for Thought liked the idea of being in a space that feels genuine, adorned with real pictures of the neighborhood and the people that have made it what it is today.

“I grew up here, and I know what the neighborhood needs,” said Scire. “I knew the space could serve the neighborhood in a different way than it currently does ... It could be a place for neighbors to meet over a drink, to talk to someone they might not normally talk to.”

As chef Andries told the East Boston Times-Free Press, the menu would make use of some of Carlo’s items — think Italian cold cut dumplings. There could also be a grilled cheese sandwich served on a doughnut from Kane’s, presented dangling from a fish hook above tomato bisque; it’s similar to a dish on the Maine menu, but there it features a Maine doughnut brand, Congdon’s. The Maine restaurant also serves numerous variations on poutine and dishes like Nashville hot chicken sliders, lobster mac and cheese potato skins, hot dog pizza, a vegan Beyond burger inspired by a Big Mac, and more; it’s unclear at this time how similar the East Boston menu would be.

Food for Thought is currently open seasonally in Ogunquit (from May to November). Scire told Eater the plan for the East Boston space is for Food for Thought to be open during its Maine offseason.

Carlo’s Catering Pitches New Restaurant Concept [EBTFP]