WALLINGFORD — Though normally a restaurant known for its roast beef, Vinny’s Deli switches it up this time of year and brings the taste of Mardi Gras to Center Street with cajun alligator sandwiches.
“It’s delicious and people come from all around for it,” owner Vinny Iannuzzi said. “We’re doing 50 to 60 of these a week usually.”
On Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, Iannuzzi was preparing alligator meat.
“We’ve cultivated this over about 30 years and so people look for it, especially the hunters,” he said.
The sandwich is made with pieces of alligator tail meat tossed in seasoned breading and soaked in cajun-style sauce. The meat is then rolled back in the breading and cooked.
The crispy pieces are stacked in a sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.
Iannuzzi said most people say the meat tastes like chicken or veal. The sandwich is usually introduced in January and is available into March.
Raffles are even held for customers to win an alligator sub sandwich through the deli’s Facebook page.
Turtle soup is another seasonal menu item made from a recipe similar to chicken noodle soup but with snapping turtle meat instead of chicken. The soup is slow cooked and includes vegetables and thinly-sliced turtle meat in its own broth.
“They love when we do anything with game meat,” said employee Dawn Mcmahon of Meriden. “They go crazy for it.”
Wild boar chili is another popular item in the winter as well as elk stew.
Iannuzzi said a visit to New Orleans gave him the opportunity to experience a variety of food and preparation styles.
“They make food a little differently,” he said. “A lot of butter.”
The deli has its own list of special menu items it has created throughout 36 years in business, including a “hot pepper jalapeno peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” and “the Elvis,” which is made with peanut butter and banana.
“We’ve done rattlesnake, we’ve done veal, ostrich, venison,” Iannuzzi said. “We try everything.”