Feed Your Appetite, Let’s Go: Spoon Shoppe Deli and Farm Market

Hand-breaded, deep-fried whole-belly clams heaped in a paper boat; slice of lemon, cup of fresh tartar sauce. Lobster roll, overflowing with plump sweet picked lobster on a toasted roll. French fries piping hot with a side of ketchup.

R.J. Bandecchi of Spooneshoppe Brooke Deli on the east side of Meriden shows a batch of hand-breaded, deep-fried whole belly clams ready to go. AGH/MDP

Sweet corn to take home for later; red ripe garden tomatoes perfect for slicing. (Or rinse, core, and eat as is with a dash of salt – mmmm summer.) When you can’t get to the shoreline – SpoonShoppe Brooke Deli and Farm Market serves up all your seafood favorites – and much more – in a central and convenient location – East Main Street, on the east side of Meriden, Connecticut, just west of the entrance to Research Parkway. Look for the turquoise slant-roof building with a open porch that is festooned with vibrant hanging baskets and thriving Mandevilla with trumpet-like blossoms. (Happy plants, by the way, don’t happen by chance; tended with care and attention, they bloom continuously. That says something about the people who own and operate this business. That’s a personal opinion, but think about it.)

Old-fashioned quality and service go hand in glove here. Professionals, state police from a nearby training center and others, plus locals flock here. Take out or sit and enjoy a casual lunch or dinner, indoors or outside (weather permitting). Call-in orders are welcome.

Russ Bandecchi at the register inside Spooneshoppe Brooke Deli. He and his wife, Donna, as owners, founded the business, picked the site and designed the building from the ground up. CB/MDP

The setting is relaxing, there’s plenty of parking, – and that namesake Spoonshop Brook flows by, a serene water border now tamed due extensive work and engineering that involved a culvert-bridge. But, truly it’s the food that draws people from far and near.

“Our food is healthy for you and is made right here,” said Russ Bandecchi, who with his wife, Donna, own this gem. “We believe in seasoning with fresh vegetables and spices, not excessive salt. Don’t let the number of cars (especially police cruisers) scare you. Our service is outstanding and customers get their orders quickly. We like this location – set back off the road, a pleasant country setting.”

“Originally, we’re involved with Geremia Farms in Wallingford; Sal and Betty were my wife’s parents. Over the years we were more and more involved in the business – eventually running the deli. At a certain point, we decided we wanted to do something on our own – so we re-designed their business to this, updated this, designed the building, put in the details – cedar poles supporting the porch, the horseshoes in the flooring, designed the kitchen from scratch. And 2003-ish we opened up and have been running ever since. It’s a lot of work and with that is a lot of fun.”

He admits that, “Lobster rolls are probably our biggest seller – but there are people who want our roast beef sandwiches six days a week.” (Having seen one, that is totally understandable.)

My first taste (ever) of lobster was a lobster roll made here and devoured after a wonderful day in Brimfield (2016) capturing images of the antiques, people, oddities, collections. The lobster roll was perfectly delicious.

Here’s the description: One-quarter pound (yep) of 100% real lobster meat, sautéed in butter and served on a long hot dog roll. And the cost: $12.99.

Open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Saturday. Closed on Sunday.

They know good food and how to prepare it, with decades of experience doing so.

“We used to have a business on Route 79 in Madison, back 25 years ago – we did whole-belly clams and lobster rolls, fresh produce there – location near Tibbals Bridge that needed upgrades eventually, so that was that. But people loved the fried clams there.

“Donna makes our own clam breading from scratch – we use peanut oil – the best oil – it cooks quick and yes, we change it often.”

No surprise that a pick as Readers’ Choice Best Deli in Meriden is listed on their web site.

On a recent visit, even learned something new – and Russ will demonstrate if asked – how to pack sweet corn so the bag doesn’t tear and the ears will not be damaged on their way to your home home. Attention to detail – now that is appreciated. (Yes, the corn was succulent and tender – after a quick rolling boil immersion – then devoured plain. Also excellent with a pat of butter, little bit of salt, dash of pepper.

While your order is being readied for you, notice the purple amethyst and other interesting rocks on display – they aren’t for sale, just for decoration and to share their beauty with customers. Donna is a rockhound and particularly loves amethysts. On their farm in Wallingford, she’s found arrowheads and other interesting stone formations.

Sampling of the menu: Seasoned and sliced chicken breast grilled and served on a wrap, piled with red roasted peppers, Monterey Jack Cheese, tomato. Variations: Salsa, sour cream, jalapenos, tomato, Cheddar cheese. Or bacon, mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomato, Provolone. Or lettuce, tomato, mayo and American cheese. (Add bacon for a dollar and make it an Ed’s Grilled Chicken BLT). Caesar salad dressing, croutons, lettuce and Parmesan.

Corned beef Reuben: Sliced corned beef grilled; sauerkraut, Swiss cheese on toasted rye with Thousand Island dressing. Buffalo chicken is crispy breaded, deep-fried chicken breast dipped in Buffalo sauce with bleu cheese dressing, lettuce.

There’s a chicken cutlet, chicken Parm. Homemade meatballs in a tomato sauce topped with Provolone. Sausage & Pepper with sweet onions and peppers in tomato sauce topped with Provolone. Hand-breaded eggplant Parmesan. Hot dog, chili dog. Cold sandwiches include roast beef, turkey breast, imported ham, Genoa salami, Italian combo. Mother Goose liverwurst on rye with spicy mustard and Swiss cheese.

Chicken salad (all white meat), lettuce and tomato. Tuna salad (all white meat), lettuce, tomato. Creamy egg salad on toast or not.

(Writing this, I’m getting hungry again.)

Breaded and deep-fried fresh fish (scrod) served on a toasted roll with lettuce, tomato, tartar sauce. Fish and chips with a side of French fries with lemon and tartar sauce. Breaded and deep-fried clam strips served with lemon and tartar sauce – pint or roll or full pint. Add $2 to make it a platter with fresh French fries.

Wholebelly clams served with lemon and tartar sauce, half pint or roll, full pint or platter. Tender sea scallops, lemon and tartar sauce.

Soups vary by day, but may include: New England clam chowder. Pasta Fagioli. Chicken and pasta. Split pea with ham. Cream of broccoli with cheddar. Lentil barley. Beef stew. Corn chowder.

Side include onion rings, homemade potato salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw, deviled eggs. French fries, of course. Deli pickles. Fruit salad, tossed salads, chicken Caesar salad.

They also do catering, party trays and platters – appetizers, dinner, desserts, or a combination. Entrees incldue baked chicken, pasta, lasagna, baked shells, sandwich, subs, and/or wrap platters; linguini and clam sauce and pasta primavera, more call for details or visit their web page.

Also of interest is that they were featured on the network show “Ghosthunters” – as owners of the “New Haven House” – but that’s a story to track down another day.

Editor’s note: The name “spoon shop” is rooted in real local history here – the brook powered an actual spoon shop factory that is now gone, but the waterpower source was New Dam to the east off Thorpe Avenue. A gated sluiceway was opened to let the water flow on a timed schedule to run the machines, do work by use of graduated-sized belts overhead inside the building. The dam has since been upgraded and the machinery used then was removed.

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