Bill Mathews shares family recipes at Gangsters Italian Sandwiches – Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

Mathews has a loyal following at his new Broadway location with his great grandmother’s Italian meatball recipe on the menu.
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Bill Mathews serves sandwiches with a smile at his sandwich shop on Broadway.

He says the recipe for his success comes down to three simple steps: “quality ingredients, good family recipes, and when people come in, I make them feel like family.”
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Mathews has a lifetime of experience under his belt, from Vancouver restaurants to farmers markets, food trucks and sandwich shops.

Before entering the restaurant business at age 22, Mathews graduated from George Brown College, a cooking program in Toronto, and the Culinary Institute of Canada in New Brunswick.

It was in the early 2000s that Mathews found his way to Saskatoon.

He started selling food at the farmers market before opening Two Gun Quiche House on 20th street in 2012.

An interview with News Talk 650 describes the restaurant as a 40-seat gangster-inspired restaurant serving up quiches, soups, and the start of the Italian sandwich.

While some aspire to golf, travel or relax in retirement, Mathews opened a sandwich shop. “I retired. It sucked. It lasted about six months, and I missed working, I missed my customers, but I didn’t want to do the full-service restaurant anymore,” he says.

Gangsters Italian Sandwiches was born, nestled between local legends like Fable Ice Cream and Darkside Donuts. The King George community welcomed the sandwich shop with open arms and a rumbling stomach.

The menu is simple: a few sandwiches and beverages and a celebrated weekly special. When Mathews posts the specials — especially the smoked chicken salad sandwich — to Instagram and Facebook, comments like ‘Can’t wait’ and ‘See you at lunch,’ flood in quickly.

Other favourites include the classic meatball sandwich, smothered in marinara sauce with roasted peppers and cheese and the cold Italian deli sandwich with various cold cuts, lettuce, cheese and basil mayo.

Whichever sandwich you choose, Mathews is sure to tell you how it’s made and hand it over with a smile and a pile of napkins.

Mathews shares that his famous meatballs are his great grandmother’s recipe from her days in restaurants in Italy.

“As far as I’m concerned, and of course I’m biased; that was my great-grandmother. I think she had the best meatballs I’ve ever tasted.”

His customers agree.

Phil Grosse heard of Gangsters Italian Sandwiches years ago through a friend. The first sandwich he tried was a suggestion from Mathews himself. The muffuletta is a traditional Italian sandwich with an olive spread/salad.

“I hate olives. Can’t stand them. But, I figured I would take his advice. Since then, I have tried the meatball sub, smoked chicken salad, and many others; The muffuletta is my all time favourite … If you can convince a guy to try a sandwich with olives, who hates olives, and it’s that good … I think that says a lot about the kind of sandwiches Bill makes,” Grosse says.

Community is a meaningful pillar of Mathew’s business model with the idea of treating everyone like family.

Mathews recalls coming into the shop early one morning to make the meatballs and sauce for his sandwiches and catering that day. At the same time he was cooking, a Shaw Cable crew from Edmonton was doing some early morning work. They were distracted by the aroma coming from the sandwich shop. After looking through the windows, many hours before Mathews was open, they inquired about this delicious smell.

The crew commented on how they must come back sometime during operating hours. Mathews took the opportunity to offer them a taste by handing over three sandwiches with fresh meatballs and sauce.

Mathews says that the same work team was in Prince Albert this summer. Before travelling back to Edmonton, they came through Saskatoon to visit him and purchased a few sandwiches.

Mathews describes his years in the King George neighbourhood as “very welcoming.” His shop at 16th Street and Avenue H donated all tips toward programming at King George school.

He bid farewell to his location earlier this year in an Instagram post, writing: “I would like to thank the community of King George for their support and patronage over the last four and a half years. I made a lot of friends, two and four-legged. It has been a great ride, thank you.”

In June, Mathews moved his sandwich shop to bustling Broadway Avenue. He’s had his eye on this location for more than a decade.

“I tried 14 years ago to get this spot, but someone got there before me. When I saw it was available back in May, I grabbed it right away.”

Now located at 626 Broadway Avenue, he shares a parking lot with the Broadway Roastery. He compares the Broadway district to the trendy streets of Toronto. “The people who live in the area are fantastic. Broadway has been very welcoming for me. Everyone has stopped in, just to say welcome to the neighbourhood,” Mathews says.

The quality ingredients, family recipes, and kindness that Mathews exudes are working out to be an incredible business model, as Grosse points out.

“I hope others enjoy Bill and his sandwiches as much as I do. He’s become a local legend when it comes to sandwiches. Saskatoon is lucky to have him!” Grosse says.

The shop’s Instagram bio reads: “There is nothing better than family, friends and good food. If what I cook can make someone smile, then that is better than any paycheque.”

“I really love what I do, and I really love my customers,” Mathews says.

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