An Ogunquit, Maine-based restaurant is opening a new location inside a popular East Boston deli on Friday, March 6: At night, Food for Thought will operate its Boston location in the Sammy Carlo’s Delicatessen and Catering space at 567 Bennington St.
Sammy Carlo’s will remain open during the day — its hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday — while Food for Thought will take over the space in the evenings and on Sundays for brunch.
The businesses will operate as separate entities, with Food for Thought paying rent to Sammy Carlo’s owner Steve Scire, who owns the space. Food for Thought owner Jay Grey told Eater that he has signed a five-year lease.
As of October 2019, Scire was in the process of petitioning the city for a liquor license, but for now, Food for Thought will operate with a BYOB license, a rarity in Boston proper due to fairly limiting restrictions.
Scire had been thinking of a way to better utilize his space since he renovated it several years ago, he told Eater in October 2019. An idea finally galvanized when Scire and his wife Kathy had a meal at Food for Thought while vacationing in Ogunquit. Scire came up with a plan and approached the Food for Thought team, including Grey and executive chef Bradley Andries, before heading back south toward East Boston.
“He [Scire] came to our Ogunquit space in August, and he was blown away,” said Grey. “He came three days in a row. He was supposed to get back to the city to operate the deli, but he wouldn’t leave without speaking with me.”
Scire said he was impressed with the food and also with the amount the Food for Thought team gives back to the Ogunquit community. Indeed, Grey has been contributing a share of Food for Thought profits to help combat the opioid crisis in Maine.
“In Maine we gave away five percent of our profits to help combat opioid addiction in the state,” Grey previously 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.”
Grey, who grew up on Beacon Hill but who lived in East Boston for many years, told Eater he plans to do as much to give back to East Boston as he can.
“I spent six years in Eastie,” said Grey. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be opening a restaurant in the neighborhood where I became a man ... We’re pumped to make an impact on the community.”
Food for Thought’s menu is all over the map (in a good way), featuring a burger; shrimp mofongo; lobster tamales; beer can chicken; mango and bacon-infused cotton candy; charcuterie served in plastic bento boxes, which are meant to evoke Lunchables for adults; a grilled cheese sandwich made with doughnuts as the bread; and more.
The menu is chiefly inspired by East Boston itself, mainly its Hispanic and Italian heritages, said Grey.
As for the space, Grey told Eater that the team made “very minimal” changes. “It’s perfect; it’s exactly how it should be,” said Grey. “You can’t mess with history — I feel very strongly about that.”
The minimal changes include updated toilets and sinks, new coffee machines, and a new floor. Otherwise, Sammy Carlo’s retains its old-school sheen. The space has capacity for 35 to 40 diners, though Grey said he’ll do his best to accommodate anyone who shows up.
“If 100 people show up, we’ll do our best to make them comfortable and take care of them,” he said, while noting he’d even serve folks waiting in line complimentary bacon. “I want people to be blown away by the whole experience.”
Head to Sammy Carlo’s for delicatessen, and stay for a taste of Eastie’s newest restaurant.
Food for Thought will operate from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for Sunday brunch, and 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for Sunday dinner. Here’s the opening menu:
• Maine Restaurant Could Bring Doughnut Grilled Cheese Sandwiches to East Boston [EBOS]
• Food for Thought [Official Site]