MIDTOWN — SoHo favorite Salume has taken its authentic Italian panini to the masses.
The toasted sandwich purveyor, crowned as the city’s best by New York Magazine, has become the first eatery to open a food kiosk in Times Square — one of four new culinary options set to arrive over the coming months offering everything from dumplings to gourmet milkshakes.
Salume manager Juan Delgado, of Inwood, said that while business is steadily growing, the move to Midtown has been an adjustment.
“You deal with a different traffic, different demographic, different structure,” said Delgado, 34, pointing to the kiosk which stands in the pedestrian plaza in front of the Marriott Marquis.
The food kiosk pilot is part of a larger effort by the city and local Times Square Alliance business improvement district to transform the once-seedy square from a gawk-worthy tourist stop to a 24-hour neighborhood, with shops, entertainment and quality dining options that move beyond the Applebee’s, McDonald’s and TGI Friday’s that have long-dominated the stretch.
Delgado said that business started out slow, but has been steadily picking up over the past week as local office workers have begun to take note of the stand, which is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. He's now selling between 80 and 120 of the sandwiches, priced at $9 and $11, a day.
Still, Delgado said, “There’s a lot of people who are still in the dark about us,” despite an outpouring of support from long-time fans who've stumbled on the new local.
“They’re surprised that we’re around,” he said.
Brooklyn’s Adam Snyder, 30, who’s worked for the restaurant for a year, said that he's noticed a considerable difference in customers in Midtown.
“Downtown is definitely a little wealthier. People aren’t quite as familiar with the ingredients we have here,” he said.
Among the restuarant's specialty panini are the “Capri,” made from buffalo mozzarella, tomato. basil and extra virgin olive, and the signature "Salame Felino," with feline salami, provolone cheese, arugula, horseradish and extra virgin olive oil.
Each of the sandwiches is hand-prepared in the restaurant's kitchen on West Broadway and then delivered every hour to the kiosk, where they are toasted-to-order.
For tourists in Times Square, the concept was a hit.
“I think it’s perfect,” said Laura Stistgler, 26, visiting from Germany, who said she liked the idea of adding food to the plazas, but also would have liked to see more choice.
“It looks great,” agreed Carlos Cordero, 54, from Venezuela, who suggested the eatery should expand its offerings to include something sweet.
But others locals weren’t so sure.
Ebonie Penado, 22, also from Brooklyn, said she thought the kiosks were “very convenient,” but scoffed when she saw the price.
She also worried about adding more congestion to the already-bustling pedestrian space.
“To me, it’s not necessary,” she said.
Delgado said that he's heard complaints from others like Penado, whom he said might not understand the concept behind his food.
“You cannot expect to pay $6 for an original Italian panini. It’s just not going to happen," he said.
Still, to compromise, the kiosk is planning to introduce a new line of simpler offerings, such as sandwiches made with a single type of meat, for around $6.