When I walk into Artisans Eatery in Islip, the smell of fresh homemade soups is enough to help me thaw out on a cold winter day. It’s the lunchtime rush, and the place is bustling as staff makes sandwiches and salads for customers from scratch. Donna Trapani is in the middle of it all, smiling the whole time as she moves seamlessly from serving soup to ringing up a customer to helping another place an order for Saturday.
“Your passion has to follow the business model and I think people need to know who the owner is, what you’re about,” Trapani, an Islip native, said.
Trapani, who opened Artisans Eatery Dec. 1, 2015, has had a hands-on approach to work since she was 13 and folding boxes at a pizza place in Bay Shore. At 22, she opened Full Martini Bar in Islip, but sold it after she got married only to get the building back in 2013. She and her husband, contractor Cliff Bruszewski, decided to open a gourmet sandwich shop and it didn’t take much for Trapani to get used to her old/new digs.
“It’s completely different yet it feels like home,” she said. “I think it has to do with my husband and I putting so much of ourselves into it. All the furniture was handmade by my husband, which lends a lot of heart. You can feel it here, it makes a lot of difference. We’re going to be artisans, it has to be us.”
Virtually everything on the approachable, fast-casual menu where nothing costs more than $10, is made in-house, from the sandwiches to the pickles in the dressings. Trapani joked the menu was like a diary, and she came up with 150 versions of it before finalizing it, and Chef Adam Russo (formerly of Harbor Mist in Cold Spring Harbor) has executed it to perfection.
Popular dishes include the eggplant, zucchini & goat cheese parmigiana, a vegetarian sandwich with fire-grilled tomatoes and mozzarella on a pesto infused sandwich wedge, and the Perky the Pig Panini of roast pork, espresso barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese and apple coleslaw on sourdough bread. Then there’s the Reuben Twist. The pastrami and beer braised sauerkraut are delicious, but Trapani suspects it owes much of its popularity to the fact that it’s served on a fresh baked sesame seed pretzel.
“The actual pretzel sells off the shelves every day,” she said. “People walk in, see it and want it.”
The process of making everything from scratch is therapeutic for Trapani in an age where everything is go-go-go, but it doesn’t keep the customer waiting. She and her staff aim to get people in and out in 10 minutes, making it an ideal spot to grab lunch before heading to the nearby train station or back to work.
“We’re fast-casual,” she said. “I want to present the opportunity to be in and out in 10 minutes. A lot of folks have 30 minutes for lunch and if you take longer than that they can’t sit down and enjoy that.”
Of course, that doesn’t stop special guests from popping in and lingering, from friends Trapani hasn’t seen since kindergarten to an old high school teacher.
“They always have more fun stories for me than I can remember, but they have such pride and happiness,” she said. “They’re so happy to see us doing well and that they’re hearing good things. Being able to do this in Islip means more than I can describe because the support has been incredible.”