Sensational Sandwich

Pam George

Pam George

, Food & Drink

Eric Huntley gives a longtime sub shop an upscale reboot

 

When Eric Huntley decided to purchase Gaudiello’s, a hoagie and steak shop in Trolley Square Shopping Center, he had two concerns. “I worried that no one would show up at all, and we would die immediately,” he says. “Or, for some reason, I would catch lightning in a bottle. Everyone on earth would show up, and we wouldn’t be able to do a good job.”

Both fears were unfounded. After Huntley reopened the renovated shop in April 2018, the word quietly spread that there was a new owner. Fans began posting Instagram and Facebook photos of sandwiches that take two hands to hold.

“The flavors are just so great together,” says customer Lindsay Lowrey. “His special homemade sauces are amazing.” Indeed, the shop’s menu puts Huntley’s pedigree on display. He was previously the executive chef at Redfire Grill & Steakhouse in Hockessin. Forget a pedestrian meatball sandwich with canned sauce and sliced provolone. Huntley’s version includes hand-crushed tomatoes and roasted garlic ricotta.

Other options include roast beef and maple-lacquered bacon piled high on marble rye with crisp lettuce and a smear of blue cheese aioli. BLT? Nope. Try the BLT and P, which includes the usual suspects plus peppadew peppers on challah bread.

Neighborhood resident Chef Robert Lhulier comes for the Italian, “loaded” with sweet and hot peppers and pickles. “All the ingredients are high quality,” says the discerning diner, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

Huntley’s training, however, has been mostly on the job. In addition to Redfire, he’s worked at the Back Burner and Corner Bistro. “I have been fortunate to have crossed paths with a lot of very talented people—with a lot of patience—who were nice enough to show me the way,” says the soft-spoken Huntley, who is so polite you’d think he was raised in the South.

Aside from some stints in Hawaii and Texas, however, the Wilmington native has spent the majority of his life in Northern Delaware. His father was a millwright with the DuPont Co., and his mother was a jane of all trades. She’s been a travel agent and owned Jennifer’s Bridal in Hockessin.

When Huntley was in high school, he totaled a friend’s car. To reimburse the owner, he got a second part-time job flipping burgers at The Charcoal Pit. Since then, he’s only worked in the hospitality industry. “And the friend whose car I wrecked is now married to my sister,” he adds.

Career highs at Redfire include winning the Delaware Burger Battle and participating in Meals from the Masters. For personal reasons, he decided to make a career change. Huntley, who describes his style as “upscale comfort food,” wanted his own business. But he didn’t want to go into debt. Since he admittedly can barely parallel park a car, a food truck was out of the question. “That left something in the quick-service area,” he says. “And I like sandwiches.”

Evidently, so do his customers.

Although Gaudiello’s is on the back side of the shopping center, limiting its prominence, diners have no problem finding their way to his door. That’s partly because Gaudiello’s was founded in 1982, and the name has brand recognition. But mostly, it’s due to the buzz about the new owner.

If all goes as planned, he’d like to have four locations. But first, he’s finding his footing. “I never ran a sandwich shop before,” he notes. The tough part? “There is always something to do,” he says. The reward is worth the labor. “The connections I have formed with regular customers over the past year,” he says, “is fantastic.”

Gaudiello’s
29A Trolley Square, Wilmington
428-1060 | sandwichmob.com

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