Parked on North Main Street, the 54-year-old Sandwich Hut has become a trusted staple in Rhode Island for authentic Italian sandwiches. We caught up with mother-and-son business duo Denise Kammerer, co-owner with her husband Don, and Peter Kammerer, general manager, to find out what makes this long-standing sandwich shop so successful.
How did the Sandwich Hut start?
Denise: My dad (Joseph Tatulli) started it when he was 40 years old. He had worked for my uncle at another sub shop near the shipyard, where he learned the business. My dad and his brother-in-law decided to start the Sandwich Hut in 1963. They saw this little shop on North Main Street that had been a variety store and it was empty, so they rented it, fixed it up and opened it. There were a couple other places around then, like Boston Subs, which ended up closing down.
What are some of the most popular items on the menu?
Peter: The most popular sandwich is the AllItalia, our signature Italian grinder with prosciutto, capocollo, pepperoni and provolone. The Deluxe grinder, with salami, ham, pepperoni and provolone, is a close second. I’d say another would be our meatball and cheese sandwich.
I hear people go nuts for the meatball subs. How many meatballs do you make each week?
Peter: A batch of meatballs is just over 400, and we make them roughly three times a week, so over 1,200 meatballs a week.
Denise: We use the same meatball recipe that my dad started with in 1963.
Have you guys kept the same menu throughout the years?
Peter: No. In fact, there’s a great picture on our Instagram feed of one of the original menus and it includes three or four items on it, each costing .30 or .40 cents apiece. The Deluxe was there, the meatball sandwich was there, and a couple other things. But over the years, menus have a way of getting bigger.
How do you decide whether something is worthy enough to put on the menu?
Peter: I think we’re always trying to strike that balance of being an old school Italian-American sandwich joint and at the same time, keeping it fresh and developing the menu in a way that makes sense for today. We don’t want to become a dinosaur but we also want to maintain that authenticity.
Denise: Today, we have a lot more vegetarian offerings. There are a lot of healthy options on there, too.
Peter: One of the things we’d like to continue to do as time passes is to integrate and build more relationships with local vendors. Some we work with now include Sal’s Bakery, Narragansett Creamery, Daniele Foods, Virginia & Spanish Peanut Company, Stamp Farms and Yacht Club Soda.
What are your personal menu favorites?
Denise: The Hut Made Tuna Salad. On the menu, the sandwich is served with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions.
Peter: The Smoke, Pickle, Pepper: smoked mozzarella, house-made pickles, roasted reds and pesto, garnished with EVOO on rosemary focaccia.
The Sandwich Hut has become such an iconic spot in Providence. Why do you think it’s been so successful throughout the years?
Peter: We’ve been here for so long and we haven’t changed the important things. One of our cheeky slogans is “no secret ingredients, just the love,” meaning there’s no secret, just a lot of hard work. You can’t rest on your laurels. Every single day is a new day – you start over, you do it again. That way of thinking that my grandfather had is how we approach the restaurant business.
Sometimes a customer will come in and tell me stories about my grandfather. And by doing that, they’re telling me things about him that I didn’t even know and they’re keeping his memory alive for me. Interacting with customers like that is a beautiful thing.
Another very important part of our success over the years is having great employees, some of whom have been with us nearly a decade. We are truly grateful for their hard work and commitment.
Denise: Through the years, my dad always built relationships with customers and employees who come back 20 years later and have memories of being here. Italian hospitality is part of it – that you just care about the people who come in here. I’ve watched children grow up here and now they’re bringing in their children. We’re always here. We don’t have someone else running the show. We love what we do. I think people want to see that.
The Sandwich Hut
1253 North Main Street