Students bring a taste of New York to the Coral Gables campus

Co-owners of NY Deli Jake Jinete, Louis Marinello, Michael Concilio, and Nick Lumaj. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

By Ashley A. Williams

Co-owners of NY Deli Jake Jinete, Louis Marinello, Michael Concilio, and Nick Lumaj. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

Students bring a taste of New York to the Coral Gables campus

By Ashley A. Williams
Craving a good deli sandwich, four students from New York launch NY Deli, a small business featured at the weekly farmers market.

When childhood friends Nick Lumaj, Louis Marinello, Jake Jinete, and Michael Concilio from Eastchester, New York enrolled at the University of Miami, opening a small business seemed an improbable venture.

Thanks to a random late-night craving by sophomore Marinello, today the quartet are co-owners of NY Deli, an Italian-style delicatessen sandwich business.

“Jake and I were hanging out and we were just reminiscing about all the Italian deli shops we have back at home,” said Marinello, an entrepreneurship major. “So, the next morning when I woke up I was like, ‘I bet that we can make this food.’ I called him up and he was on board and we reached out to Mike and Nick and the four of us got started.”

The original concept for the business was targeted at first-year students living in residential halls. The group approached University administration about setting up shop on the intramural fields in order to provide convenience until they were hit with a roadblock.

“This was something we were going to do on Sundays,” said Jinete, who is majoring in management with a minor in music business. “But then we were told that no money is allowed to be transferred on the IM fields.”

This left them wondering, what next?  Marinello said they approached many people throughout spring 2018 with their ideas but Ana Alvarez, executive director of auxiliary services, was the first to believe in them.

“I never like to turn away students with entrepreneurial ideas,” said Alvarez, adding that Mike Ross, resident district manager of Chartwells, and Cristina Hernandez, an executive assistant in human resources, were on board to assist too.

After their initial meeting with Alvarez and Ross, the NY Deli owners were “challenged” to work on their menu development, practice the execution, and become ServSafe certified by completing a training and exam that summer before returning to campus in the fall.

“I sent them off with some things they had to do,” said Ross. “I was so surprised when all four of them came back certified. We provided them with some guidance, but these gentleman have worked really hard to make it happen themselves.”

From there, Hernandez, who has oversight of the Wednesday Well ’Canes market on the Coral Gables campus, established an area where student entrepreneurs are able to test their concepts with minimal investment. Now, at a discounted rate, student-led businesses are able to rent a space at the market.

On Sept. 11, the NY Deli officially set up shop at the market and sold out of sandwiches.

“We prepped for 125 and we ended up selling like 200 sandwiches,” said Lumaj, who is also playfully known amongst his crew as “Nicky Eggs” because of his egg-making skills. “A lot of our friends work with us and help us out tremendously. We have a system and it works well.”

Tony Lauri, catering executive chef of Chartwells, meets with them each Tuesday night to help prep for the following day and also helps the foursome with ordering supplies. Tim Pazdo, quality assurance manager, checks in regularly to ensure food is being prepared safely.

“It’s all just come together so beautifully,” said Ross. “They are just real entrepreneurs. I am so happy that they are successful.”

Marinello, Lumaj, Jinete, and Concilio each thank their families back home for their unwavering support and business acumen. Since opening, each family has made their way to the Coral Gables campus to get a glimpse of the guys in action.

Entering their sixth week at the market, the foursome continue to learn the business and are enjoying their newfound fame on campus. They are now known as the “Deli Boys” amongst their peers.

“A lot of people appreciate us being at the market because everyone was craving something like this,” said Marinello, referring to the large northeastern student population. “Not only that, our most expensive sandwich is $7. A lot of kids here are on a college budget. I think that they appreciate that we are able to provide them with a fulfilling, solid meal at a much cheaper price.”

The sandwich he is referring to is the Hashtag, which dons bacon, egg, and cheese, one hash brown and a thinly sliced chicken cutlet that’s lightly breaded and fried. The NY Deli currently employ eight other students to assist them. Jinete is proud to be the first-ever student-run business at the Wednesday market.

“Somebody always paves the way and it’s just crazy knowing that we actually done that, said Jinete. “To hear that we are inspiring others is a great feeling.”

NY Deli will continue to work closely with Chartwells to expand their menu. Ross and the team are in talks to create monthly featured sandwich specials that will be available for a limited time only.

“UM Auxiliary Services in partnership with UM Dining is here to serve, to educate, and to support future leaders,” said Alvarez. “Recently, we’ve been approached by a second group of students also interested in developing their food service concept.”

Concilio’s advice to others who are interested in bringing their business idea to the table is quite simple.

“Just do it,” said Concilio. “Don’t let anyone doubting you stop you.”