With deeply rooted community ties and a little experience in the art of sandwich and pastry making, the couple opened The Sandwich Shop at 658 Grand St. in a low-income co-op owned by St. Nicks Alliance.
“I’ve been here for 20 years, and I’ve always loved Grand and it’s a great commercial area,” Picon said at the official grand opening of his new shop last week. “I thought that it needs variety, different food. I wanted to work close to my home and I love the neighborhood.”
Their European-style sandwiches are carefully crafted on thinly cut artisanal breads. The meats are often slow cooked and carefully seasoned, and each is made and individually crafted to offer a variety of different tastes from all over the world.
There is the classic El Cubano; The Norwegian, made with smoked salmon, scallions, pickled radishes and capers; The Tokyo Breakfast, with a Japanese-style egg custard, smoked ham and cheddar cheese; and The Korean, incorporating a spicy kimchi with cheddar cheese and Sriracha mayonnaise.
Bread is also delivered to the new restaurant every morning from Pain d’Anignon NYC.
Penzini previously owned a pastry shop in Caracas, Venezuela, just four years ago.
“It’s a very honest food,” she said. “I mean sandwich. It’s something so simple so you have to make it right.”
Artineh Havan, executive director of the Grand Street Business Improvement District, has recently worked with retail consultants Larisa Ortiz Associates to create a new vision for the commercial strip.
“What we’ve learned is that it is really important to work with property owners and try to make the best match,” Havan said. “The people who are coming here are going to be investing in the business, so it’s also important to give longer term leases to the tenants.”
Newly elected Councilman Antonio Reynoso said he is happy to see that someone from the neighborhood has been able to find a place on Grand Street.
“I’m excited that this type of business is opening here,” Reynoso said. “They’re from the neighborhood, they’re Latino and the identity of this community is still there.”
Councilwoman Diana Reyna said their location, situated in the low-income housing development on Grand Avenue, is key to supporting the long-time residents.
Looking forward, Reyna said that she hopes the commercial buildup along the avenue will benefit adjoining streets and the rest of the community.
“I only hope that they have success and that they become part of the fabric of what we want our avenue to become,” Reyna said. “I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more of these ribbon cuttings for business, for residents and for community at large.”