For Nick Stella, sandwiches have always been a family affair. Following his time at the College of Charleston, he decided to make the Holy City the next home for Circe's Grotto, a mom-and-pop shop serving up some of the city's best sammies. We chatted with Nick to find out how Circe's came to be + why simple food is sometimes the best food.
How did you get your start in the restaurant business?
My mom has been in the food business for over 40 years, I've been with her for 30 of them, so I guess you would say osmosis. I moved to Charleston from Scituate, MA in 2008 to attend College of Charleston. From then, a second location for Circe’s Grotto started brewing in our mind. I knew Charleston needed a good mom-and-pop sandwich shop, who doesn’t like a good, fresh sandwich? After I graduated from the College of Charleston, I went to Rincon, Puerto Rico not knowing what the next step was in life. Soon after, a friend in the real estate business called and said he had acquired the perfect spot for Circe’s Grotto in Charleston. I moved back to Charleston, we signed the lease, and started building our second Circe’s Grotto. We used the same concept of the one up in Scituate, MA, just a simpler version, minus the bakery aspect. We wanted to offer the city a good sandwich with fresh ingredients that your mom would make you at home.
Where did the name ‘Circe’s Grotto’ come from?
The name came from the Greek mythology and the story "The Odyssey" by Homer. Circe was a Greek goddess who used to turn men into pigs to teach them how to eat properly and Grotto means cave, so essentially it means the eating cave. Later on, we found out that "Circe" in the south meant small gift, so it fit perfectly.
Why did you want to bring Circe’s to Charleston?
Our love of food, hospitality, culture, diversity... and of course the weather. The college gave us the audience for a good sandwich.... home away from home. We wanted to offer patrons a good sandwich/panino made with fresh ingredients, at a fair price, that they could eat everyday.
Who the heck doesn’t like to eat a sandwich? It's something our patrons could eat everyday.
What’s the secret to the perfect sandwich?
First off, to us, the bread is the most important part of a sandwich, and then the ingredients have to be fresh- from the produce, to the meats and cheeses- all natural and sliced everyday. It’s our goal to use the best ingredients we can possibly find. Yes, that makes costs higher, but our vision is to give the consumer the highest quality product on the market.
If someone’s visiting Circe’s for the first time, what do they have to try?
I would say to start at the top of the menu and work your way down. We have options for all, not just sandwiches and paninis, we also have signature salads as well as the option to turn any sandwich into a salad. Folks love our breakfast toasts, and classic egg sandwiches. Most people start with the Turkey Melt made with Mom's homemade red pepper mayo, avocado, red onion, and white sharp cheddar cheese.
What’s next for you + Circe’s?
Hopefully exploring more local ingredients and some additional daily specials. It is our goal to always be innovating and finding new ways to bring delicious food to our customers We look forward to serving our community each day over here on Wentworth St.