Long before the pandemic ground dine-in operations to a halt and upended the way we eat and drink, Gerard Craft wanted to open a deli. From an old New York family, he wasn't interested in recreating the overstuffed pastrami-on-ryes of his youth, but rather the type of Italian-influenced food counter he fell in love with on his trips to the old country. He looked around for spots, and, a couple of years ago, even considered a space next door to his Clayton restaurant, Pastaria, but nothing seemed to fall into place. Determined to do it right when the timing came together, he shelved the plans and focused on his other endeavors.
That deli idea would come up again under decidedly unideal circumstances. As one of the most prominent voices trying to help fellow restaurants navigate the horrendous challenges facing the industry over the last year, Craft was one of the first to close his dining rooms and became a leader in thinking through how businesses could survive on carry-out, take-and-bake meals and to-go beverages. For some of his restaurants, this meant a shift that, while not easy, did not mean completely overhauling the very essence of what they were. For Sardella, his small, Italian-inflected restaurant and wine bar, it was a blow to its identity. Meant to be a cozy spot for sharing small plates and cocktails, there was no way to distill that feeling into a to-go option. Something had to change.
- MABEL SUEN
- A look inside Pastaria Deli & Wine.
With Sardella closed, it was a no-brainer for Craft to try out his deli idea. Adjacent to Pastaria, the space was tailor-made to complement the popular pizza and pasta spot with carryout-friendly items like sandwiches and salads that could be enjoyed in a park or in the backyard with friends. He and his team got to work trying out recipes, curated an outstanding wine selection and worked with Union Loafers to develop the perfect sandwich bread that would be the basis for most of their offerings. They weren't going for anything over-the-top — just simple food made from outstanding ingredients that would still allow for people to come together over a meal, albeit in a pandemic-friendly fashion.
See Also: Photos Inside Pastaria Deli & Wine
Craft and his team launched the deli as a pop-up last summer and were blown away by the reception — so much that he realized this was likely a long-term project rather than a temporary adaptation. With surrounding office buildings beginning to slowly come back to life and nothing like it in the area, it made sense that the deli would only grow — not lose relevance once people started hitting the streets again. After a few months, he decided to make the transformation permanent, shuttering Sardella for good and relaunching the space as Pastaria Deli & Wine this past Fall.