The perfect deli sandwich, says Frank Bonanno, goes something like this: "a ton of meat, sliced to order and paper-thin; shredded iceberg lettuce; paper-thin, sliced tomatoes; and a slightly crunchy, soft and toothsome hoagie roll." That's the kind of sandwich that Bonanno, who will open Salt & Grinder, a New Jersey-style deli, tomorrow in Highland, grew up eating in his home town of Demarest, New Jersey -- and it's the kind of sandwich that's also his muse at Salt & Grinder.
"I used to go to this meat market -- it was really a butcher -- in my home town called Vito's, and from 11 to 4 every day, he'd make the most awesome turkey, ham and roast beef sandwiches on the best bread, and when this location became available, I thought we could do something like that in this space, plus I live two minutes from here, and there's no really good deli; that's what this block needs," he says.
"We'll serve everything from a classic pork roll in the morning -- which we're calling the Philly -- to my riff on an Italian, layered with the signature burrata I developed at Luca d'Italia, prosciutto, coppa, ham and arugula," says Bonanno, "and we'll serve a classic Italian, too, which we've coined the Tigs after my childhood buddy, but guests will definitely be in for some personal Bonanno touches as well."
The hoagies and baguettes, which are baked by Grateful Bread, are canvases for seventeen sandwiches, and the bread, admits Bonanno, took some time to perfect. "Bread is a really big part of what we're doing, and we worked with Jeff Cleary from Grateful Bread for four months to create the kind of grinder roll I grew up with," says Bonanno, who's also roasting his own beef and making his meatballs in-house. His other sliced-to-order meats are procured from Boar's Head -- at least for the next few months, until he gets his in-house salumi program up and running, at which time he'll cure his own coppa, prosciutto and salami. The sandwiches are augmented by several side dishes (quinoa salad, orzo and arugula salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, German potato salad, cucumber salad or chips), as well as a slew of salads and desserts, including house-baked black-and-white cookies and blondie bars.
Breakfast, which will start in a few weeks, includes a breakfast burrito; house-cured salmon with cream cheese, capers and onions; French toast stuffed with peanut butter, jam, whipped cream and browned butter; and several breakfast sandwiches served on kaiser rolls.
The beverage program, spearheaded by Bonanno Concepts beverage director Adam Hodak, boasts local craft beers, tap cocktails and jarred cocktails, including a Manhattan and pineapple lemonade with vodka.
The long and narrow quarters, which seat twenty (a sidewalk patio seats another eighteen), expose weathered red brick mounted with bright-hued bull hooks, dark wooden tables, a library ladder and floor-to-ceiling antique cabinetry that Bonanno's wife, Jacqueline, sourced from a science trade school in New York. And she and Bonanno have bedecked the shelves with retail items trumpeting everything from a bar tool kit inspired by the behind-the-stick tools at Green Russell (Bonanno's speakeasy in Larimer Square) to the chile oil from Osteria Marco, glass flask wine decanters from Lou's and the Arabic baharat spice mixture that Bonanno uses on the fries at Vesper Lounge. The drawers are stashed with logo-stamped T-shirts from all of Bonanno's restaurants, which now number eleven, and a wall adjacent to the cabinet is dedicated to a science experiment of sorts, with old porcelain sockets, cloth wiring and doorbells wired together with switches that illuminate lightbulbs.
Following six days of limited hours (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.), which start tomorrow, Bonanno will host a grand-opening celebration on Wednesday, June 18, at 11 a.m., giving away $50 Salt & Grinder gift cards to the first 100 guests through the door. Beginning Thursday, June 19, Salt & Grinder will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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