Stan Voit: New market deli run by veteran of food business

Jun. 24, 2013 @ 02:39 PM

He’s been a sous chef in the gambling capital of America. He owned and operated a bakery/deli in South Carolina. He has created ice carvings. He even made a program for truckers called “What’s in Your Fridge?”, in which he talks people through dishes they can make quickly based on what they have in the refrigerator at that time.

That’s quite a resume. So what’s a guy like Rick Rossi doing in a corner of a local convenience store selling hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza?

There is a good explanation, but for now he just wants you come by and try his food. Rossi has opened a deli inside City Park Market on Park Road in Sevierville. He suggested it to the owners. Of course, you can get a hot dog or burger at countless places across this county. Rossi says his are the best, unique because of the meat he chooses and the way he prepares them.

That may be true, but still, what’s he doing here trying to sell food in a tiny area of a locally owned market?

Rossi’s path to Sevierville opened up a little over a year ago after getting married. The marriage didn’t work out, but he stayed, semi-retired and restless. He had been a trucker for about three years until heart problems forced him out of the 18-wheeler.

“I used to come in the City Park Market every morning for coffee,” he said. “I asked one day if I could put some food in there. I had heard that years ago somebody operated a deli and the food was pretty good. They decided to hire me and let me do what I wanted to do.”

He has started with hot dogs and burgers, but he adds a twist. He makes his own sauces and dips and has priced his items lower than many places charge. He has added pizza and wings. He has daily specials.

He buys gourmet all-beef hot dogs and features an Italian dog. He makes his own pepper sauce. He sells a Mexican dog, kraut dog, Greek dog. He makes his own garlic butter sauce for chicken wings. Except for the pizza crust, he prepares everything for the pizza.

And he is the lone employee in the deli. He says he is there seven days a week, six of them for around 13 hours. But he is having fun and doesn’t mind the time.

Rossi grew up in Pennsylvania. His father was a master cook who taught him the kitchen when he was 9 or 10. When his father died, Rossi went through some of his papers and discovered that his dad had prepared Thanksgiving dinner during World War II for Gen. George Patton and French President Charles de Gaulle.

Over the years he has worked in a number of places, mostly in the food business. He was sous chef (second in command in the kitchen) at the old MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He moved back east and opened a bakery and deli in Little River, S.C.

In most cities he would go by the local food bank, introduce himself to the operators and provide free baking and cooking classes, on the theory that many people who need the staples available at a food n may not know a variety of ways to prepare the food and make it stretch.

The program he developed for truckers came while he himself was trucking. He still has people call him for advice on what to do with limited items in the refrigerator. He will spend time on the phone to talk them through recipes, making dinner work with items as disparate as chicken and peanut butter.

But now he’s in Sevierville and ready to make his new food business a success.

“I’ve been blessed,” he said. “I’ve had good times and bad times, but overall I have a passion for the kitchen.”

His goal is to expand the offerings in his deli to include at least this item he used to sell at his South Carolina deli: a bucket of spaghetti and bread; you supply the meatballs or sausage.

He is open from 10 am. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 2-9 on Sundays. Keep in mind that everything is sold to go; there is no room for tables or in-store dining. But City Park is close by, so take Rossi’s food there for a picnic along the stream.

— Stan Voit is editor of The Mountain Press. His column appears each Sunday. He can be reached at 428-0748, ext. 217, or e-mail to svoit@themountainpress.com. Twitter: @stanvoit.