Graham Kilmer

Scardina Deli Plans Return To Riverwest

Scardina Specialties, closed in 2021 when its building condemned, would reopen in bigger space on Locust St.

By - Feb 23rd, 2022 09:59 am
713-715 E. Locust St. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

713-715 E. Locust St. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

In 2021, Scardina Specialties, a family-owned Italian deli in Riverwest was abruptly closed when its building at 818-822 E. Chambers St. was condemned and shut down by the city — a sad turn of events for both the owner and its loyal customers. 

Now, owner Damien Scardina has plans to reopen in a bigger space at 713-715 E. Locust St., in the building that was formerly home to Riverwest Healing Arts. The new space will have a full kitchen and a small dining area.

“We’ll double in size and then some,” Scardina said.

With the kitchen, and added cooler space, he said the deli would have more hot foods on the menu, including Scardina’s signature sausages. He’d also like to sell a spiedini dinner, a kind of Sicilian kebab of thin cuts of meat stuffed with breadcrumbs, currants, pine nuts and cheese, and skewered with onions and bay leaves.

“I can’t wait to get back in business,” Scardina said.

He said he’s been working hard to reopen the deli. The business wasn’t failing. It was opened in 2012 by the Scardina family including Damien, his sister and his parents. It built a loyal base of customers in the neighborhood. In 2016, Damien took over the business. Then the building was declared “unfit for human habitation,” according to a raze order from the city’s Department of Neighborhood Services.

“To close, and to be done like that, I was like ‘No way, that’s not an option.’”

Scardina said he could have reopened sooner in one of the many commercial locations that have opened up as the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered small businesses, especially restaurants. But he wanted to stay in Riverwest.

“I wouldn’t go anywhere else to do this,” Scardina said. “This is my place to be.” 

Ever since the deli was abruptly shut down, Scardina said, Riverwest locals have been asking him about future plans for the business. For a long time, he didn’t know what to tell anyone. Now, if he gets all the permitting and financing in place, he has some good news for the the neighborhood.

“The people here in Riverwest have been really good to us,” he said.

Scardina said he’d like to carry a beer from each of the Riverwest breweries at the new deli: Lakefront Brewery, Black Husky Brewing, Gathering Place Brewing Company and Company Brewing

The former Scardina building at 818-822 E. Chambers is owned by Carson Praefke, a co-founder along with brothers Russ and Jim Klisch of Lakefront Brewery. And the building is the site of the original Lakefront Brewery.

Scardina said he’s working on getting all the necessary approvals and permitting from the city as well as financing. He’s hoping the new Scardina Specialties will be open by spring. He wants it to be open in time for the Locust Street Festival. The festival hasn’t been held since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

2 thoughts on “Scardina Deli Plans Return To Riverwest”

  1. kmurphy724 says:

    Love Scardina Specialties! So glad they are staying in RW!

  2. David Loken says:

    Is there an update on the Chambers St. building being repaired or being further condemned to demolition?

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