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Hotsy Turns 90, Still Sizzles at Greenwich Eatery

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Frank (Hotsy) Bertino has stood behind the counter at Garden Catering in Old Greenwich for the past 20 years, and Monday morning was no exception. Customers filed in and out ordering 90-cent “Hotsy” sandwiches—a bacon, egg and cheese with homefries and chili—in honor of Hotsy’s 90th birthday.

“People love ’em,” Bertino said of the sandwich bearing his name. “[Working] keeps me young. I’ve been doing this for 67 years. When you see people every day for years, you know what they want.”

Monday through Friday at 2 a.m., while most residents are sleeping, Bertino sets up shop at Garden Catering. “He preps the coffee, slices the rolls, gets eggs ready,” said Frank Carpenteri Jr. of Garden Catering. “The great thing about Hotsy is he knows his customers so well, that if he has a guy who gets a ham sandwich every morning at 5 a.m., he’ll have that ham sliced and ready to put on the sandwich.”

Nicknamed when he was a quick-tempered youth, “Hotsy” has kept the moniker for the last seven decades. Given that his most famous dish is a spicy chili, the name is still appropriate.

“Hotsy’s a local food legend. He’s been in town for decades and everyone knows him. He’s just overall an awesome person. He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever met. He just does it, not because we ever ask him to, that’s just what he does,” said Carpenteri.

Bertino is a World War II veteran and an ex-amateur boxer. Before working for owner Frank Carpenteri, Bertino had been in the food business for decades, from Oasis restaurant to Hotsy’s Sandtrap at the Bruce (now Griff) golf course in Greenwich. “This is my retirement,” he said. He’s amassed devoted fans and followers, like Jeff Bischoff, a local business consultant.

“It could be snowing or raining, but I'll stop at GC to go in and see my buddy Hotsy,” said Bischoff. “He is putting the cap on my coffee before the door even opens, and it usually hits the counter before I do. They sell coffee at the train station. I’m sure it’s fine, but I’ve never tasted it.”

His co-workers likewise respect Hotsy’s dedication to the business. “I’ve been here for 15 years and the most impressive thing about Hotsy is how he gets up every day and just works,” said Mike Paoletta, manager of Garden Catering’s Old Greenwich location. “He has a great personality and a face that everyone knows.”

Garden Catering of Old Greenwich is located at 185 ½ Sound Beach Ave. Garden Catering Hamilton Avenue is located at 177 Hamilton Ave. in the Chickahominy section of Greenwich. For more information, call Frank Carpenteri Jr. at (203) 698-2900.

Do you know Hotsy or are you a fan of the sandwich? Share your memories below and wish Hotsy a happy 90th b irthday.

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