Early risers still hungry for Old Greenwich’s ‘Hotsy’

By: Taylor Coe, Special Correspondent, greenwichtime.com

While he may be moving a bit slower these days, Frank “Hotsy” Bertino’s mind is working faster than ever. With more than 60 years in the food business, Bertino has absorbed the minutiae of life at the Old Greenwich location of Garden Catering, so it’s like second nature to him.

Bertino, 89, knows every regular customer at the deli, from their name to the way they like their coffee. On any given morning, he looks at the next customer in line and begins preparing their coffee — half and half or skim milk with Splenda — before they can even bother to order.

“The coffee is on the counter, waiting for us,” said Jeff Bischoff, of Old Greenwich. Bertino has things ready for Bischoff and his wife, Katrina, every morning.

Bertino turns 90 on Monday, and Garden Catering and its customers will honor his decades-long dedication to dining with a special discount on his eponymous breakfast sandwich — the Hotsy. Bacon, egg, cheese and potatoes, topped with Bertino’s chili, the sandwich is a regular breakfast item at the Old Greenwich location. Usually sold for $4, the Hotsy will be sold for 90 cents Monday in honor of his birthday.

“Hotsy is amazing,” manager Mike Paoletta, who has been working with Bertino for 14 years, said Friday morning as the usual weekday-morning bustle filled the eatery. “When you work with someone so long, it’s not even like working. We always joke around.”

An early riser, Bischoff usually stops by for coffee every morning at 5:15. But early mornings do not faze Bertino.

In charge of the early shift at Garden Catering, Bertino regularly rises in the wee hours of the morning to begin work at 2 a.m. He completes the prep work for the day and opens at 4 a.m. to serve other early risers.

“Been doing it over 60 years, so it’s easy,” said Bertino of his early day.

Bertino has worked and run a number of eateries in the area, including the restaurant formerly known as Hotsy’s Sandtrap, at Greenwich’s public Griffith Harris Golf Course. Bertino fought in World War II prior to his restaurant days.

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