In Italian, Servedio means “to serve God.” In Pointe-Saint-Charles, it means to serve sandwiches.
Frank Servedio recently opened Clarke, a cafe and sandwich shop named after a street in the Mile End, but right at home in Pointe-Saint-Charles. Clarke is the reincarnation of Frank’s grandparents’ former Mile End landmark Boulangerie Clarke, brought back to life after Servedio’s parents sold the original location.
Following a three-year stint in the kitchen at La Campagnola in Lasalle, Frank realized that it was time to reignite the torch that had not yet been passed down to him. “It feels good, man,” Servedio says. “I was upset, we were getting rid of a family business and people really loved us in that neighbourhood. For me, I wasn’t ready to stop doing that. Now that we’ve got it going again, I’m very happy.”
But why open a classic Italian sandwich shop in Pointe-Saint-Charles? According to Frank, it was a no-brainer, citing the vibrancy of nearby Verdun, Griffintown, and Saint Henri. Clarke may be a breath of fresh air for the lunch crowd and residents, but the idea was more about fitting than setting trends.
“I’m not trying to be a millionaire or something, I just want to offer something to this neighbourhood that hasn’t been here. I understand the history of the Point. That’s why we kept the price of sandwiches under ten bucks; anybody can come in here. I’m not making 30 dollar plates of pasta, I think that would make people upset.”
Frank pronounces the word “sandwich” with a certain twang that is familiar to anyone from an Italian neighbourhood in Montreal. “‘Sangwich’ is just the way Italians pronounce it—we pronounce it wrong. I don’t know if it’s a Montreal thing, but for me, personally, I have a hard time saying it properly, I have to say it slowly for it to come out properly.”
So, what’s the secret to making a good sangwich according to Frank Servedio? Structural integrity is the key, he says. “The main ingredient for a sandwich is good bread. I always tell my guys, ‘Make the sandwich like you’re making it for yourself.’ The secret, for me, is talking top to bottom: tomato, lettuce, cheese, then you have your meat and then you have all the extras like eggplant and spicy peppers, that goes at the bottom. If you mess up that pattern it makes a big difference.”
“There’s definitely a correct order to making it. If you put the eggplant over the cheese, al the oil from the eggplant is going to run over it. The eggplant and the hot peppers really need to be at the bottom. Sometimes less is more, too; don’t go crazy, but definitely respect the order!”
In other words, there is an objectively right and wrong way to do things and at Clarke, Servedio works 12 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure the latter. He might pronounce “sandwich” wrong, but he sure makes them right.
“Anything you do with food is about passion,” Frank concludes. “I’m happy to come here every day, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”