Where the Salesians Boys & Girls Club parking lot is today on Bennington Street once stood Sammy Carlo’s corner store. It was there, in the 1950s that a family business started that would, after seven decades and two locations, become a staple of many diets in East Boston.
Now, one block away from its original location, Sammy Carlo’s Catering has become one of those go-to places for good-old-fashioned Italian comfort food.
Over the summer Sammy Scire’s son, Stevie Scire, has done a painstaking historical restoration of the sub shop’s facade–replacing the old wood shingles with clapboards, new windows and new signage.
Last Tuesday Mayor Martin Walsh and Main Streets traveled to Sammy Carlo’s to honor the Scire family as the Main Streets ‘Business of the Year’ and cut the ribbon on the business’s restoration.
“If you haven’t been inside and you haven’t eaten something, go in there and taste the food, and you’ll see why they’re the Business of the Year,” said Mayor Walsh last Tuesday. “We can talk about the beautiful new facade and the way it looks, but I tell you just go inside and taste the food. It’s absolutely amazing. It’s an old-school deli that were in all our neighborhoods years ago. It’s an amazing place with amazing food run by an amazing family. Stevie and Kathy (Scire) are active members of the community and always give back and I want to congratulate them on being awarded this recognition.”
Councilor Lydia Edwards said the soul of a community are local businesses like Sammy Carlo’s.
“They are the ones that give that first job to someone in the neighborhood, they are the ones that help out other organizations, they are the ones that help the community grow,” said Edwards. “Sammy Carlo’s is more than a local business, it’s a neighborhood institution.”
Stevie said his grandfather Carmello came from Sicily in the 1930s and was a grocer.
“In the 1950s my dad (Sammy) and my uncle opened the store on the corner of Bennington and Byron Streets,” said Scire
Sammy Scire was a neighborhood guy with deep roots in the neighborhood. He lived on Horace Street and relished in operating the small grocery store that served the neighborhood he called home.
“Things were different back then,” said Stevie Carlo. “Before big supermarkets corner stores were where you went to get all your staples.”
In the 1970s, the Salesians, who owned the building that Sammy Carlo’s originally operated from, needed to make room for the expansion of Savio and Savio Hall.
“In 1974 the Salesians, who my father had a great relationship with, needed to knock down three houses they owned on Bennington Street to build Savio Hall,” said Scire.
One block down, another corner-store owner was looking to retire.
“My father said it just felt right,” said Scire. “He wanted to stay in the neighborhood so it was perfect timing.”
When Scire was 8 years old the family moved to Medford, but their loyalty still was in Eastie.
“I worked in the store with my father all summer so all my friends were in East Boston,” said Scire. “The neighborhood was unbelievable. I grew up with the Torgersens and the Travaglinis—it was a real family neighborhood.”
Scire graduated from Savio in 1980 and began studying at Northeastern University.
“One day my father said ‘everything I can teach you is here in the store. So I made the decision to take over the store in 1984,” said Scire.
Still a grocery store that served up cold subs, Scire began to incorporate more food.
“The economy was changing, there were big supermarkets all over the place and I was dusting off the same canned goods that had been sitting on the shelves for months so I knew I needed to make a change,” said Scire.
The elder Scire kept telling his son that the way of the future was a sub shop and prepared meals.
“So I started to take my mother’s recipes for meatballs and pasta dishes and we began turning Carlo’s into a sub shop and catering business,” said Scire.
Scire removed the aisles of groceries and canned goods and replaced them with tables and chairs, and soon Sammy Carlo’s Catering became the place to go to for blue-collar workers looking to take a lunch break and have a good meal.
“Everything we make is made to order,” said Scire. “We don’t cut corners here.”
From the hot to cold subs to the pasta dishes and take-home meals, Carlo’s Catering’s business hasn’t slowed.
“There are slow times but for the most part the catering and lunch crowd keeps us very busy,” said Scire. “We are constantly evolving and trying out different variations of the old staples. In many ways the menu is a reflection of what I like to eat and cook.”
And over the years Carlo’s Catering has developed a large fan base.
“There are people I’ve seen grow up, their kids grow up and now their kid’s kids are coming in to eat here so that’s something special,” said Scire.