A longtime Harrison educator has acquired a vacant commercial space at Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. N. and Hamilton St. and turned it into a deli.
The space at 114 Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. N. – whose last occupant was a butcher shop – is now called the Sub Station Grille & Cafe and its proprietor is Fred Confessore, who has been working for the local school system for four decades, most recently as assistant superintendent.
Not quite ready for retirement, Confessore – who’s got his mom Gloria, wife Suellen, son Fred Francis (a godson of former Mayor Frank E. Rodgers) and daughter Cara Muscillo all pitching in – plus employee Fatima Abrau – got the business off the ground in February and held a grand opening last month.
The place, outfitted with formica table tops and sturdy wood chairs for eating in, and, as a thematic element, a large mural depicting historic New York’s Grand Central Station, is open Monday to Saturday, 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., for both sit-down meals and take-out orders.
“We’re going to start deliveries soon,” Confessore said at the grand opening.
In addition to the daily freshly made specials, the shop serves breakfast “all day,” Cara pointed out. “People love it.”
Cara, who teaches fifth grade at the Hamilton Ave. Elementary School, and her husband came up with all the design work for the menu and Facebook postings. “Originally, I went to school for advertising,” Cara said, so she’s been able to put those lessons to good use.
Over the past two decades, Confessore said, the shop was, initially, a “sub shop, with two different owners,” before it was converted to a butcher’s until last winter when it closed.
So why get involved in a hectic retail business when you’re already a busy public school administrator?
Confessore explained that his wife used to run a sandwich shop near Harrison High School but when she had a baby three years ago, she stopped working. Now that her daughter, Isabella, is 3, she wanted to go back to work. “So we looked around for a space close to the PATH station,” he said, and they came up with one only a couple of blocks away.
“I created the menu and I make the daily specials,” Confessore said.
So far, the biggest sellers, according to Cara, have been the “South Station,” grilled chicken with cheese, avocado and chipotle on a ciabatta roll, and the “Penn Station,” roast pork with ham and swiss cheese, yellow mustard and pickle, served as a panini.
The cheese steak sandwich is also recommended, along with the “Meatball Monday” special and “ribbon” fries.
Just inside the shop’s entrance stands an old-fashioned gas stove but it’s not used for cooking – only as a repository for promotional materials for the shop – but there’s an interesting story behind it.
As Confessore tells it, “The stove was in the old Lincoln Elementary School and my uncle Chuck was a custodian there and he had it in the little kitchen shared by the custodial staff and cooked on it.
“Well, in 1983, when I found out they were going to be knocking down the school and build a new one, I asked my uncle if I could have the stove because I’m a collector of antiques so he gave it to me and I put it among my other antiques and, eventually, I moved it into my school office.”
By that time, Gloria Confessore – who had gotten a secretarial job with the school system when Fred was in kindergarten – had landed a position in the superintendent’s office.
When she spotted the stove, Confessore said, she realized that it was the same stove she used to cook on when she and her family were living in an attic apartment years ago.
“I made more Italian dinners on that stove than I can remember,” Gloria said. “I got it from the Harrison dumps for $5. The man wanted $20 for it but I told him, ‘Look, all I have is this five dollar bill so don’t argue and take it.’ He took it.”
To contact the eatery, call 973-482-7827.
To learn more about the selection of food items offered, visit www.facebook.com/SUBSTATIONgrille.