New Deli Grotto owner Chris Sepe has promised not to change the deli’s tried and true recipe for success.
Grotto-goers need not fear: Although the island’s most popular deli has changed hands, its lauded menu and reasonable prices aren’t going anywhere.
Chris Sepe is the new owner/chef of Deli Grotto, the venerated eatery that has been gathering a following for the past six years from its convenient locale tucked inside Mongoose Junction, and he doesn’t plan to fix what isn’t broken.
“Nothing is going to change,” said Sepe, who bought Deli Grotto nearly two months ago. “The previous owners created a good thing and it would be stupid to change it.”
Even the highly lauded Grotto Bread — a yeasty concoction featured in mouth-watering menu items like the deli’s signature French toast and available for purchase as a whole loaf — will keep its original recipe, a fear Sepe has frequently quelled since taking over Deli Grotto.
Sepe was living on St. John for two years before he seized on the opportunity to own a business that would fit his family-man lifestyle.
“I have been a chef my whole life and have been looking for a good, working business down here – something that would allow me to spend time with my family,” said Sepe, who has 9-, 11- and 18-year-old daughters and an 8-month-old son. “The daytime hours are great with my schedule, which is rare for a chef.”
Hailing from California, with a long stint in Miami, and most recently, as a chef at W!kked, the St. Thomas waterside bar and restaurant at Yacht Haven, Sepe’s culinary background stretches far but takes root in good, simple food.
“I love working with seafood, you can do a lot of things with it,” he said. “But I am just as happy with a good sandwich.”
Anyone who has bitten into Deli Grotto’s scrumptious staples — like the Grotto Chicken Panini featuring smoked and pulled white meat chicken, mozzarella, tomatoes, red onion and lightly spread chipotle mayonnaise on made-from-scratch rosemary and onion focaccia or the Pink Cadillac, a delightful creation of turkey, cheddar, guacamole, salsa and cream cheese contained in pumpernickel — knows its sandwiches speak for themselves.
“The bread is impossible not to eat,” Sepe said. “And we’ve also got great desserts we make homemade each day. It’s pretty hard to stay away from them.”
Deli Grotto’s famous desserts — think coconut chocolate bars and Jumbles, a chocolate, peanut butter and oat concoction that fly off the shelves — are the perfect after-meal pick-me-up, especially when paired with one of the half-dozen espresso treats on offer.
The deli, open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., is an ideal stop-off to a day on the North Shore. And with hearty beginnings like its Breakfast Burrito consisting of eggs, cheddar, salsa, potatoes and sausage blanketed in a flour tortilla, you can spend the entire day on the beach before hunger pangs start to creep.
And with inexpensive breakfast and lunch items ($3 to $8), there is nothing not to like about Deli Grotto’s menu.
“The menu prices are what makes this such a popular place,” Sepe said. “Living on St. John is so expensive — so not only the tourists, but the locals, like it here. This is the place to go for a sandwich and a drink for under $10.”
Although Sepe admits his new position is hard work, he said the career change has allowed him to pursue his passion while spending time with his family.
“I’ve been around food my whole life,” he said. “Owning Deli Grotto is something I wanted to do for my family life.”