In New York, on Nassau Street, in the Financial District, there is an Italian sandwich shop very popular and appreciated for the quality of its products. It’s called “Pisillo Italian panini”, and is now a usual destination not only for New Yorkers, who entertain there daily for a lunch, but also for Italian tourists visiting the “Big Apple”. Its owner, Carmelo Nazzaro, is 47 and comes from Montesarchio (Benevento). He manages this fortunate activity together with his wife, Antonella Silvio, from Sant’Agata de ’Goti (Benevento).
Pisillo Italian Panini on Nassau Street: the story
Carmelo arrived in America in 2008, with Antonella and their daughter, to pursue the dream that he cultivated since he was a child: to live in New York. He, who has always worked in the restaurant business, initially decided to open a pizzeria, but business did not go as he expected and soon he was forced to close. His determination and desire to succeed, however, do not allow him to give up in front of the first failure. Precisely for this reason, having set aside the pizza chef activity, he opens an import-export company with the aim of importing and distributing quality Italian products. Fate awaits him on Nassau Street, in the Manhattan neighborhood not far from Wall Street, home of the famous New York Stock Exchange.
One day, while making the usual round of deliveries, he realizes that, in the financial district, a small restaurant is rented. Immediately, a brilliant idea flashed in his mind: it was the opportunity he had been waiting for, the right place to start his sandwich shop. Carmelo does not think twice, quickly writes down the phone number that is indicated on the sign and contacts the owner.
Pisillo, a bizarre name that has distant roots
It is November 2012. Carmelo and his wife begin this new adventure, which will prove to be a source of great satisfaction. He gives the restaurant a bizarre name which – he reveals – is the name assigned to his family in the village. In small towns in southern Italy, like his, it is in fact customary to give each a nickname. With this nickname, moreover, Carmelo wants to remember the bar “Pisillo”, which his grandfather opened in 1936, in Montesarchio. The beginning is not the best, but soon the Americans begin to get used to his mega sandwiches and appreciate them.
Made with homemade bread (which is delivered three times a day, always fresh and fragrant, from four Italian bakeries) and with excellent products, all rigorously imported from Italy, they are a real treat for the palate. The quality of its sandwiches also begins to attract the attention of journalists, televisions, famous people, including Mayor Bill De Blasio, whose maternal grandfather was originally from Sant’Agata de ’Goti.
Pisillo’s sandwiches, dedicated to thirty-five Italian cities
Those who choose to stop and eat in the Carmelo restaurant can order thirty-five different sandwiches, dedicated to the main Italian cities. These are very “rich” sandwiches, stuffed with top quality ingredients. To name a few, the “Genova sandwich”, which contains tuna, artichokes, black olives, rocket and extra virgin olive oil; or the “Parma sandwich”, stuffed with ham (strictly from Parma), smoked mozzarella, dried tomatoes, rocket and the inevitable extra virgin olive oil. In short, from “Pisillo”, taste and quality are a must.
On the walls of the restaurant, numerous newspaper articles tell of a success that, over the years, has grown more and more. One photo stands out among all: it is the autographed one by Robert De Niro, which testifies that actors and celebritiens from the world of cinema are repeat costumers. Recently, next to the sandwich shop, which is just 55 square meters in size, Carmelo purchased a coffee shop, where Italian espresso and sweets are served. In this short chat, he talks us about his successful business and invites us to go to Manhattan, to taste his delicious sandwiches.
Carmelo, how are your sandwiches different from others?
«Quality above all, combined with the freshness of the bread and the love we put into making them. Our sandwich, compared to the classic one of any delicatessen, is enriched with local ingredients, such as dried tomatoes, artichokes, roasted peppers. In short, only the best Italian gastronomic products».
Is there one sandwich, in particular, you would like to recommend anyone who decided to come to his sandwich shop?
«There isn’t one better than the other. They are all very good, even if made with different products. I recommend them all thirty-five. Come and visit us, I will wait for you with open arms».
Who does frequent your restaurant?
“My restaurant is frequented by anyone: from the worker to the professional, from the broker who works on Wall Street, to the housewife, passing through actors and politicians. In addition to Mayor De Blasio, who comes every week, famous people have been Bruce Willis, Gwyneth Paltrow and my myth, Robert De Niro. I always remember it with great pleasure. He is crazy about “Parma sandwich”».
What do you miss from Italy?
«I always miss everything: family, social relationships. I miss the bar in the village, where I met friends to talk about football, politics and daily vicissitudes».