The Eatery: From Take-Out Joint To Cozy Eat-In Deli

The catchy, slow-grooving rock playing over the speakers, the giant chalkboard menu and the decor not unlike something you'd see on Pinterest — Wallingford's Eatery was different from any deli I've ever eaten at. And that's exactly what owner John Masella was going for.

"I said, 'If we're going to do sandwiches, I don't want it to be like any other deli,'" he says of the menu, which leans toward the more healthful side, offering multigrain bread and gluten-free options, as well as ciabatta AND white and wheat wraps.

After graduating from culinary school eight years ago, Masella worked in New Haven at different catering companies and cafes. Wanting something of his own, he opened Masella Catering on a part-time basis in Wallingford two years ago. When he was able to take his culinary creativity full time, he decided a take-out joint would be great for the exposure, and in April, the Eatery was born.

After customers were turning away because of the the lack of seating, Masella knocked down a wall and became a full-service, order-and-sit deli this month.

Guests can pick from the Classic ($6), a create-your-own sandwich option with three meats, tuna salad or grilled vegetables as a base, and then add cheese and a topping. All sandwiches are served with lettuce and tomato.

Feeling fancy? The Good Stuff for $8 or $9 is a menu of 12 creative sandwiches such as the Douglas, turkey with fresh mozzarella,spinach and cranberry jalapeño relish; and the Savannah Chicken, grilled chicken, spinach, mandarin oranges, goat cheese and honey bacon dressing. There's also a $5 grilled cheese for those who like to keep it simple.

The Gourmet Salads menu includes seven salads from $5 to $8, with options ranging from fresh strawberry and walnuts to Mediterranean influenced.

"I wanted everything to be very intentional," Masella said, to make it easier for the customer to choose rather than to be bombarded with 40 options.

I was tempted by the specials menu, particularly the turkey, bacon and ranch wrap, but decided to stick with the staple menu. I ordered the Vineyard Fare, prosciutto, tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil-arugala pesto and the California salad for later: romaine, grape tomatoes, avocado, roasted corn, diced Swiss cheese and ranch dressing. Additional options include soups, chips and a cooler of sodas, sparking waters and Foxon Park drinks.

Did I mention there's a Nutella panini?

I had mine on ciabatta and paired it with a $2 iced La Colombe coffee, and it was heavenly. The perfect balance of Nutella and bread, and it was warm and not too gooey. Make your coffee or tea the way you like with sugar and simple syrup displayed on a simple wood stand with crafty hand-written chalk identifiers.

I had the prosciutto panini on multigrain bread. The prosciutto had an amazing salty character and with the pesto, it just felt right. The panini press marks added just the right amount of crunch to a seriously stacked sandwich. The ranch dressing for the salad wasn't overly creamy and the corn has a great Southwest hint with just a little kick. The added chicken and avocado were generous servings.

If you're in a lunch rush, you may have to wait just a little as the sandwiches are made fresh. But you can now wait in the cozy seating area, designed by Masella with the idea to keep it "simple, not overwhelming. A place people look forward to coming to."

The Eatery, 65 S. Colony Road, Wallingford, is open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Information: 203-303-8123 and wallingfordeatery.com.