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Italian sandwich shop hits it off, on S.E. Gladstone

by: MERRY MACKINNON - 'Shut Up and Eat's' co-owners Glenn Hollenbeck and John Fimmano opened their Italian-American-inspired sandwich shop last July, in the 3800 block of S.E. Gladstone Street. Business has been 'fantastic', the partners report.After he moved to Portland from Philadelphia in 2010, it didn't take long for John Fimmano to jump in and open his own food cart.

In less than two years, what started out as a food cart enterprise has evolved into a sit-down restaurant that Fimmano and his co-owner say is “doing fantastic”.

Initially, Fimmano found work in construction, where he met then-co-worker Glenn Hollenbeck, and convinced him that a food cart serving Italian-American-inspired sandwiches could easily compete in Portland. Back in Philly where his family lives, Fimmano was taught Italian cooking by his mother – including what is now a popular menu item: A meatball sandwich with beef, veal, and pork meatballs, house-made gravy, and provolone, asiago, and parmesan cheeses.

That and other sandwiches are now served up at Hollenbeck’s and Fimmano’s recently-opened “Shut Up and Eat” sandwich restaurant at 3848 S.E. Gladstone Street.

The “Shut Up and Eat” enterprise started in October, 2010, when Hollenbeck and Fimmano together opened their “Shut Up and Eat” food cart at the “A La Carts” pod at 4926 S.E. Division Street. In no time, customers were lining up for sandwiches on the huge, long rolls – including a raved-about Italian hoagie piled with mortadella, Genoa salami, copocollo, sopressatta, prosciutto, provolone, asiago, parmesan, caper olive relish, roasted bell peppers, cabbage, tomato, and olive oil.

Customers even began debating online which sandwich was the most “awesome” – the meatball sandwich, or the cheese steak sandwich with chipped top round, fried onions, provolone, and choice of hot or sweet peppers. Some customers reported eating half the sandwich (which cost $8.50) – and then saving the rest to enjoy the next day.

As word spread, the partners opened a second food cart. But by 2012, Fimmano figured they were ready for the big step up. And then Fimmano, who lives in the Foster-Powell neighborhood, drove by Southeast Gladstone Street. in Creston-Kenilworth, and saw an Urban Works Real Estate for-lease sign in the window of an old stucco storefront.

The renovated storefront had many incarnations through the decades – Laundromat, upholstery shop, art gallery, and a long-gone pharmacy and soda fountain – a stop-off for students taking the trolley that once ran along S.E. Gladstone Street.

Now, a counter with stools for seats has returned to that corner of Gladstone, along with a few high tables. “Shut Up and Eat” offers – along with its assortment of sandwiches – sweet potato and Brussels sprout hash, house-made chips and beer, wine, cocktails, sodas, coffee and orange juice.

The restaurant is open Tuesdays 9 am to 8 pm and Sundays 9 am to 7 pm (closed Mondays). And the food carts have been closed.