New Haven is blessed with a number of inventive, young restaurateurs whose ideas for new restaurants can’t be contained in just one establishment. Their minds continue to work overtime, and the need to create additional culinary options has kept downtown and Ninth Square busy. John Ginnetti, acclaimed mixologist-owner of 116 Crown, is part of that hardworking group. His idea to start a pop-up sandwich shop became a reality when the small space next door to 116 Crown opened up, and Ginnetti and partner Bruce Ditman launched a brick-and-mortar version, called Meat & Co.
The name is classic Ginnetti, who delights in sophisticated wordplay. During a Thanksgiving dinner, etymology regarding food and eating establishments became a subject of discussion between Ginnetti and his aunt, longtime East Haven Latin teacher Antonia Ginnetti. The two Ginnettis talked about the word “company.” Ginnetti explains, “The origin was someone to break bread with. Then she gave me the history of ‘pantry’ and ‘companion,” leading to Ginnetti’s thoughts on “how food is what you gather around.” Then on to the two spellings of one word: “meat” as in food, “meet” as in meet up. When Ginnetti launched the sandwich shop, he flippd the “a” in the logo to reflect the variety of meanings on the word and the food.
For Ginnetti, it wasn’t just about a sandwich. The inference from the name Meat & Co. was about meat and bread, meeting up with each other, being in each other’s company. And not just each other, “but meeting yourself for lunch, being able to just sit and think by yourself.” That was the impetus for having only counter seating inside (there are cafe tables outside in good weather). We didn’t want people to feel they had to sit with someone else and have a conversation. “Getting together with yourself over a sandwich for 20 minutes in the middle of the day is a nice way to revive. That’s why we started with just lunch. A respite, eating at your desk is not the same as coming to a sandwich counter, having Lou Reed in the background, get to watch people make sandwichs, just take five, meet your friends, sit side-by-side, or sit by yourself.’
Like Ginnetti’s cocktails at 116 Crown, his sandwiches have creative names. It’s not just a pastrami and cheese, it’s a Rick Reuben named for the iconoclastic record producer. “Each sandwich is its own identity. Everything comes in a nice little jewelbox, it’s not do-it-yourself. [Some] people come here and just want a pastrami. they don’t want cardamom-braised, red cabbage slaw, although I don’t know why they wouldn’t.”
The pastrami and all the meats are cured, braised or brined on site. Local farmer’s markets and other Connecticut farmers supply as many of the ingredients as possible. The bread is also local, from Whole G in New Haven and Bread & Chocolate in Hamden. The final touch is to grill each sandwich, and wrap it up if you want to take it with you. Can’t get enough sandwich during lunch? They’re looking into staying open late.
Restaurant Website: http://www.meatandcompany.com/
• The Detes: 116 Crown St., New Haven. 203-776-MEAT (6328). Open Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Price Range: Sandwiches $6.50 to $10.
• Style of Food: Contemporary sandwich, locally sourced.
• Favorite dishes: Each sandwich has its following.
• Drinks: Fentiman’s sodas and Mexican Coke
• Vegetarian: yes!
• Outdoor seating: yes
• Catering: absolutely