WATERTOWN — A local chef known for his Italian cuisine is serving gourmet salads and sandwiches at his new luncheonette in the Commerce Building.
Geoffrey M. Puccia opened his Cornerstone Eatery Tuesday in the former Subway restaurant, which he leased from local developer Brian H. Murray. The restaurateur, who also owns Pete’s Trattoria, has been renovating the space on Public Square and installing new equipment in it since last fall.
While Mr. Puccia and his wife, Tamara K., held a soft opening Tuesday, she said they plan to hold a grand opening at a later date.
“I always wanted to be on the square,” Mr. Puccia said. “My dad had a little shop here when I was a kid.”
While Pete’s Trattoria, 111 Breen Ave., focuses on a sit-down dining experience with pasta, pizza, chicken and seafood dishes, Mr. Puccia shifted gears to a fast-casual service with lighter, healthier dishes for the Cornerstone Eatery.
The restaurant offers a variety of salads and sandwiches, such as Mr. Puccia’s beef tenderloin and shrimp po’boys, a seared burger made with ground beets and plant protein, a salad and wrap with falafel and a beet and tomato caprese salad.
The dishes include local ingredients such as beets and baby greens from Agbotic Inc., Sackets Harbor, granola from Carthage and maple syrup, he said.
The restaurateur and his sous chef, Justin Anderson, who worked at Pete’s Trattoria for three years before joining the new eatery, prepare dishes within minutes to cater to workers on lunch break who either want to sit down for a quick meal or take a meal back to the office.
“We’ve designed the menu to execute everything in five minutes because we know people have a limited lunch hour,” Mr. Puccia said. “Basically, it’s sit-down quality (food) with a faster pace.”
The couple installed a refurbished wood counter where customers can order and pick up their dishes, which allows Mr. Puccia to interact with customers more often than at Pete’s Trattoria; as well as a new stove top and oven, flat-top grill and Salamander broiler.
The interior has also been decorated with new tables and countertop seating made of refurbished wood and metal, wood shelving, rustic signs and new lighting to embody a “refurbished industrial” style, Mrs. Puccia said. She has been helping her husband get the luncheonette off the ground.
“We just wanted to personalize things and make it our own style,”she said.
While Mr. Puccia has a new restaurant to manage, the local chef has no plans to abandon his post at Pete’s Trattoria.
Cornerstone Eatery is open during the afternoon while Pete’s Trattoria serves customers at night, scheduling that Mr. Puccia said allows him to operate both.
“We don’t want to jeopardize the current business. We want to be successful at both,” Mrs. Puccia said.
Cornerstone Eatery joins other establishments that have set up shop in downtown in recent months like Power Play Sports, WWTI-ABC 50, which relocated from Arsenal Street; Whistlers Tavern and the upcoming Boots Brewing Co., which will open at the end of the month in the Lincoln Building
Mr. Murray, who owns several properties in the city, Adams and Carthage, said all spaces in the Commerce Building have been claimed save one storefront and two upstairs apartments. While a few people have expressed interest in the last storefront, Mr. Murray said no one has made an offer.
“We’re super excited to have (Cornerstone Eatery) in that property in downtown,” he said. “You’re really starting to see a lot of momentum and looking back on the past year and a half and all of the exciting businesses coming to downtown; it’s pretty amazing.”