Nardelli’s is the best regional fast food in CT: Food & Wine

The magazine’s recent editorial features 50 “locally loved quick-service restaurants across America”, as writers David Landsel and Andy Yang set out to find the best regional favorites in the United States.

“Here’s what we were looking for in a fast food restaurant, as we ate across the country: at least a handful of locations and more, mostly in their home country,” they wrote. “…All had to have both counter service and a robust take-out program, ideally drive-thru. Fully seated restaurants were not eligible. Most important of all – did we like the food?”

Nardelli’s, they write, “has figured out how to extend the [Italian grinder] without sacrificing the soul of the real deal.”

“There are so many options, but you’ll start with the Italian combo, stuffed with prosciuttini – pruzitini, if you speak the local dialect – and cappy ham, salami, provolone and a mix of vegetables marinated in olive oil. olive, vinegar and spices.”

A sandwich from Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe.

Viktoria Sundqvist/Hearst Connecticut Media

Nardelli’s celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Brothers Giuseppe, Antonio and Frederico Nardelli came to America from Italy in 1914, and eight years later opened the Nardelli grocery store in Waterbury, according to the company’s website.

“They were amazed at how well the grinders were selling. Soon people were coming from all over Waterbury to get a grinder,” the website notes. “Some days the line snaked up to South Main Street. It was obvious the brothers had created the perfect balance of ‘overstuffed’ ingredients and attractive prices. A combination chopper made from a quarter loaf costs 10 cents, a 1/2 loaf is 15 cents and a whole loaf is 30 cents.”

A century later, Nardelli’s now has locations throughout Connecticut, including two in its hometown of Waterbury and others in Cromwell, Danbury, East Hartford, Farmington, Meriden, Middletown, Milford, Naugatuck, Norwalk, Oxford, Southbury , Southington, Torrington and Wallingford.

The chain also plans to open further north and east, with restaurants planned for Enfield and East Lyme. Its first out-of-state location, in Sturbridge, Mass., is listed as “coming soon in 2022” on its website.

The grinder shop offers a wide variety of hot and cold grinders, with its signature Italian best-selling combo, and other favorites like chicken cutlet, hot pepper chicken with prosciutto, eggplant and dumplings of parmigiana meat and the shaved steak and cheese. Restaurants have also started offering plant-based meats and other vegan options.

Nardelli’s is a regular winner for “Best Grinder” in Connecticut Magazine’s Best of Connecticut polls, and Hearst Connecticut Media readers chose it as one of Connecticut’s favorite regional restaurant chains in July (although the most high honor was awarded to Duchess, which has 13 fast-food restaurants in New Haven and Fairfield counties.)

In surrounding states, Kelly’s Roast Beef was named Massachusetts’ best regional fast food (the North Shore sandwich brand is also looking to expand into Connecticut) and New York’s winner was Xi’an Famous Foods, which specializes in Western Chinese cuisine. In Rhode Island, the crown went to Olneyville New York System, a destination for hot weiners (“don’t say dogs, ever,” Food & Wine warned.)

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