Comfort food: Williamsburg man opens Cheesy Street Grill in Hampshire Mall

  • Jon Oligino, franchise owner of the Cheesy Street Grill at the Hampshire Mall, talks about his decision for a career change and open the sandwich shop in the mall. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jon Oligino, franchise owner of the Cheesy Street Grill at the Hampshire Mall, makes an order of a CSG Signature and a Classic American sandwich for a customer Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jon Oligino, franchise owner of the Cheesy Street Grill at the Hampshire Mall, makes an order of a CSG Signature and a Classic American sandwich for a customer Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jon Oligino, franchise owner of the Cheesy Street Grill at the Hampshire Mall, makes an order of a CSG Signature and a Classic American sandwich for a customer Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jon Oligino, franchise owner of the Cheesy Street Grill at the Hampshire Mall, makes an order of a CSG Signature and a Classic American sandwich for a customer one day last week. The Williamsburg resident left a career in construction and as a commercial driver to open this new restaurant. The exterior of the restaurant is shown above. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Cheesy Street Grill at the Hampshire Mall in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/8/2021 2:48:47 PM

HADLEY — On return trips from Salisbury Beach via the Massachusetts Turnpike, Holyoke resident Nancy Bachand’s family has stopped to eat at the Cheesy Street Grill stand at the Westborough service plaza.

“It’s been a must have,” says Bachand, adding that “sometimes we drive there just to get their sandwiches.” “Their grilled cheese sandwiches are awesome.”

When Bachand learned that Cheesy Street Grill’s newest location is at the food court at the Hampshire Mall, she dropped in following an excursion to the University of Massachusetts, ordering a CSG sandwich, with a blend of Asiago, goat cheese and sharp cheddar cheese, and a Classic American Cheese sandwich, for lunch for her and her husband.

Jon Oligino of Williamsburg had a similar experience of enjoying dining at the Cheesy Street Grill at both the Westborough and Natick service plazas, being a regular on the highway while employed as a truck driver. But unlike Bachand, he recently became the company’s second franchisee when owner Lisa Dowd, who began the restaurants from a food truck in Connecticut in 2014, offered the opportunity.

Oligino, the only employee in Hadley, said getting ready to open the restaurant has been a good experience, different from being in the construction industry and using his commercial drivers’ license.

“The past year has been incredible, driving truck all day and then doing emails and paperwork,” Oligino said.

A single father of twin teen children, including a daughter who is pursuing a career in plumbing, Oligino said now is the time for his own change in careers.

Oligino said he is no stranger to food service and is prepared for the long hours, with the restaurant currently open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily except Sundays, when the mall closes at 6 p.m.

“I’ve always done a lot of cooking. I’ve basically worked in every restaurant in Northampton,” Oligino said, reciting his experience from Union Station to Friendly’s, and even a day or two at Burger King.

Oligino has access to a kitchen once used by Sbarro, and was provided the trademarked wrap for the walls and the digital menu boards that are identical to those at the Natick plaza.

When an order is placed, Oligino pulls slices of country white bread from the loaves, runs them over a butter wheel and then places the ingredients, from cheese to meats.

The sandwich is then put between panini presses to heat up before being put inside to-go boxes that keep sandwiches warm for customers to eat in the food court or at home.

“From start to finish I can get five sandwiches and bowls of soup done in less than 10 minutes,” Oligino said.

In addition to the gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches that can be customized, other menu items include The Big Melt, a crumbled ground beef sandwich with Thousand Island dressing, a Chipotle Chicken sandwich, a macaroni and cheese dinner that can be customized, baked potato tots and salads.

If successful, Oligino said he may use the kitchen to launch his own food truck that will set up at fairs, festivals and sporting events.

In addition to Cinemark, Oligino notes that Cafe Square is home to Interskate 91 and the Pinz bowling alley, and he is confident the pandemic comes to an end at some point.

“We’re already getting a lot of families, especially when kids movies are coming out,” Oligino said.

Oligino said the career change is good so far.

“I’m hanging out and making people grilled cheese sandwiches,” Oligino said. “This is definitely being well received and every day I’m seeing lots of new faces.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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