Today, March 4, marks the grand reopening of the beloved local favorite. The community is elated, yet many can’t help but wonder what happened in the first place. And, by the way, what the heck is a Sazini, anyway?
How many times have you thought back to a favorite local eatery, gig spot, etc. and thought, “There’s been nothing like that ever since. How great would it be to have that around again?”
Your odds are poor at best. It never happens. But then, it did.
Fifteen months after its unexpected closing, Souper Fry has re-opened as you would never have dared to dream: with the very same staff at the exact location and the same menu (plus some new treats) as it first appeared in Merrick just over ten years ago.
Simple trips for lunch would invariably turn into bouts of decadence, as Souper Fry turned the idea of comfort food into the norm. The local high school crowd descended on the spot for their lunch breaks, and nine to fivers followed suit in the evenings, especially when feeling they deserved a little something special as their day ended.
So, they are back. How did it happen? Jon Passman, who originally launched the spot in 2007, is quick to point out the two main factors: the support from the community, and the return of the unsung hero of the kitchen, Ivan Carrillo, who is now his partner.
CENE: Jon, you have a lot of people happy about the fact that Souper Fry has returned. So many wonder what happened in the first place; why did you shut down?
Jon: Truth be told, the combination of my mother’s untimely death and my impending divorce had a profound effect on me, and I lost all passion. I felt it would be a disservice to the community as well as myself to continue to do something half ass, so I sold it.
CENE: It’s featured on the sign outside…what exactly what is a “Sazini”?
Jon: My sister Sarah’s nickname was always “Sazzy” for me and it was the first wrapini I ever created for the menu. It took on a life of its own so now it’s the “Home Of The Sazini.” (a pressed wrap with Chicken cutlet, mozzarella and bacon with Roscoe dressing.)
CENE: What’s the most significant change at Souper Fry?
Jon: Several things, actually. The most important thing is how it happened. I would never have come back to do this if Ivan Carrillo didn’t agree to become my partner. He is the backbone of that kitchen and an unsung hero. He is a fixture in the community for manning that store for 10 years. He’s an amazing guy and he has made the transition much easier.
CENE: Ivan, what was it like when Jon came to you with the idea of the new Souper Fry and being his partner?
Ivan: I was working driving truck when Jon’s dad called me. He told me that Burgeritos had closed, and he asked me “What do you think about opening Souper Fry again?” I was busy with my work and I told him we would talk later. I was thinking for days, I asked myself “Is this true, can it happen…why not?” Then Jon called me. I had already thought about it and I told him I was ready, but I never imagined that he was going to ask me if I wanted to be his partner. That meant a lot to me; he was the best boss I ever had in my life. So, I’m an Adventist Christian. On the seventh day, I thank God first because all the work I did for ten years was worth it. I said yes, no doubt because I’ve known him for 10 years. Great guy and great family, too.
CENE: The menu seems very similar to how it had been. What’s the biggest difference between the original Souper Fry and 2.0?
Ivan: I love the menu now, there’s more choices like the stuffed knishes, but I love the Benni boo vegetable wrap, my favorite now. And the Judge is delicious. Who doesn’t like short ribs?
CENE: Jon, what’s been the coolest thing you’ve experienced since the reopening that you hadn’t experienced since Souper Fry 1.0?
Jon: The crew of people who have helped during the soft openings…friends and family with full time jobs coming in to help with taking orders and everything else that needed to be done.
We didn’t publicly announce our soft openings, and there was a line of 50 people waiting patiently outside in the cold. It’s amazing how missed Souper Fry was. It’s great to be back.
1762 Merrick Ave
Merrick, NY 11566
Now open daily from 10AM to 9PM.