Sandwich shops are underrated.
Ironically, they’re also the bread and butter of the Hudson Valley’s dining scene. As landmarks in the community, they’re tried-and-true destinations for commuters on their way to work, locals on their lunch breaks, and visitors who just really need a hot cup of joe. No frills though they may be, they shine as testaments to the difference that a little elbow grease and a lot of love can make.
Frank Camey likes the concept of sandwich shops. He likes it so much that he’s bringing one of his very own to Wappingers Falls this month. Dubbed Mario’s Sandwich Company, the eatery is a hybrid Jewish-Italian deli that serves comforting breakfasts and lunches to hungry Hudson Valleyites.
“It’s something that’s been in my head for a while,” says Camey, the former executive chef at Heritage Food + Drink in Wappingers Falls and our Best of Hudson Valley Chef for 2019. “I always wanted to have a breakfast and lunch place.”
For Camey, who’s been working in Hudson Valley kitchens since he was 14, the idea first took root during his days at Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie. He was in charge of the soup and sandwich specials during the time and felt a pull toward the easy, approachable style of cuisine. Then Heritage Food + Drink opened, and Camey pushed his dream to the back burner to focus on leading the culinary team in Wappingers Falls.
It wasn’t until Camey’s mother, who works in real estate, mentioned an available property to him that he seriously began to consider pursuing the deli.
“I wasn’t really searching,” he admits. Yet when he saw the storefront, which was formerly home to A to Z Deli & Grocery in Wappingers Falls, he knew it was a perfect fit. Add to the fact that it was right in the area in which he grew up, and Camey knew it was the prime time for him to make his mark in the community. Wasting no time, he settled the paperwork, closed on the property, and put in his notice at Heritage.
And then the real work began.
When Camey purchased the shop, it was very much in need of renovations. To bring it up to par, he gutted and replaced all the fixtures and rebuilt the walk-in cooler. The upgrade delayed his anticipated open date by a week, but he says it will all be worth it.
Mario’s Sandwich Company makes its grand debut in the Hudson Valley at the end of November. Inside, visitors can step foot into an old-timey space, one in which family photos line the walls and the scent of sausage and peppers fills the air. True to deli standards, dining takes place at the counter, on one of the few tables in the space (think 15 to 20 seats at most), or on the go. Camey expects most of the service to be of the to-go variety, thanks to the eatery’s proximity to the New Hamburg train station, as well as to bustling cities like Beacon and Poughkeepsie.
Camey took inspiration for the deli’s name from his grandfather, a longtime train engineer to whom he also pays tribute via a train tattoo on his arm. He likes that the eatery is an ode to his family, since they’re the most important focus in his life.
“Family’s very important to me,” he says. “I want that feeling of ‘Oh, I’m stepping into my grandfather’s house.’ It’s comfortable, local, and all about the community.”
As for foodie offerings, the deli is Camey’s chance to pull out all the stops with home-cooked, lovingly made fare. Combining Jewish and Italian traditions, he plans to make everything by hand, from beef brisket and meatballs to roast beef and turkey. Although the classics take up the core of his menu, he’s excited to throw in a few curveballs in the form of Korean fried chicken sandwiches, fried bologna specials, and vegan black bean and corn patties.
Of course, he has the sweet spectrum covered, too. To pair with commuter coffees and as post-lunch treats, he’ll make his own cinnamon rolls, cookies, and pastries. Coffee will be self-serve, and a deli cooler in the back will stock grab-and-go drinks.
The deli is a change for Camey, to be sure, yet it’s also a boon for the father who’s worked nights for the bulk of his professional life. In fact, Mario’s won’t be open during the evenings at all, but will instead limit its hours to Monday to Friday from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday to Sunday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Can’t wait for Mario’s? Camey plans to kick off the opening in a grand way with a community-oriented party on November 23. Expect food, family, and maybe even a music performance to bring smiles to the day.
Mario’s Sandwich Company
10 Market St, Wappingers Falls