Unconventional and Innovative, Smart’wich Shop Founder Chef Michael Guerrieri is Being Inducted into Bethpage High School Hall of Fame

Chef Michael Guerrieri, who is being inducted into Bethpage High School’s Hall of Fame this year, traveled the world and back to Long Island to create a smarter sandwich – the Smart’wich – one that is fresher, tastier and less reliant on all the usual condiments you find in a typical handheld.

“I wanted to create a new sandwich,” said Chef Michael Guerrieri in a phone interview with Long Island Restaurants recently. “And delete that idea of having to add condiments to everything.”

That idea is to allow the flavors he puts into his sandwiches to shine instead of smothering them. And thus, the Smart’wich was born.

For his effort and success, Chef Guerrieri is being honored by his hometown. He will be inducted into the Bethpage High School Hall of Fame on October 21st at his old alma mater.

Guerrieri was born in Italy and came to Long Island when he was just seven-years-old.

“We did not speak a word of English,” he said with a laugh and an infectious positive energy that infuses everything Guerrieri does from his conversations to his Instagram posts to his sandwiches.

Once he was old enough Guerrieri moved to Lisbon, Portugal and stayed away for 17 years on a food journey in Europe. There he started a number of successful enterprises and hobnobbed with the rich and famous who came into his restaurants.

Eric Clapton, Bo Derek and Alan Alda were just some of the A-listers who would casually make their way into his spot in Lisbon.

“Anybody and everybody would come through my restaurant,” he said.

Guerrieri has a motto that helps explain the secret to his success.

“Treat everyone the same and be transparent and you will go a long way in life,” he said. Then he added, “Sit down, shut up, and eat.”

It was a long way from the neighborhood pizzeria where Guerrieri first fell in love with the food life. He would walk to Dante’s pizzeria, starting work there when he was just 14-years-old. The menu was your typical pizza place but it taught him what to do and how to run a kitchen.

“There was this lovely Uruguayan woman, Maria Rotta,” he said.

With her hands full, cooking, he watched Rotta close the oven door with her foot and that ballet in the kitchen sparked his fuse.

“It was the beginning of understanding what a kitchen was about,” he said.

Guerrieri spent a lot of time in European kitchens and what he learned in Portugal and Italy he brought back to New York City years later. He had launched two restaurants and was about to open a third when Covid hit and that floored him.

“There was tremendous sadness having to close my shops when we were about to explode our brand,” he said.

So he went back to Long Island to figure out his next step and as it turned out, Long Island became his next step. He opened Smart’wich inside Francesco’s Bakery, owned by his brother.

“Long Island helped me get past the misery,” he said.

Guerrieri says that he infused the food cultures of Portugal, Italy and New York into his sandwiches, creating something exotic and delicious, blending old traditions with a new twist. His Smart’wiches are served on fresh-baked Pao Saloio bread, which are made for Guerrieri by his friends. Pao Saloio bread is similar to a baguette with a Portuguese twist.

“Three cultures that explode with flavors,” he said.

Even though the sandwich is lower in carbs and uses fresh ingredients he does not consider them a “healthy food.”

“I hate the word healthy,” he said. “It doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s all about eating correctly.”

Guerrieri believes that healthy has come to mean anything that people want it to be. His sandwich is different.

“It’s not healthy, it’s smart,” he said.

Even more than New York City, Guerrieri says Long Island has embraced his concept. He will put up a teaser of his next day’s sandwich on Instagram and people will jump to pre-order it so they don’t miss out.

Guerrieri loves being back on Long Island.

“It is a blessing to be here around my family and childhood friends coming in,” he said.

Being recognized by his hometown with his induction into the Bethpage High School Hall of Fame is very gratifying.

“I feel so honored,” he said. “I never would have expected it.”

His time at Bethpage High School had a tremendous impact on him. Guerrieri has traveled far and wide, he’s met a lot of people but he thinks that people also sometimes underestimate Long Island.

“A lot happens on Long Island and we haven’t always tuned it to it all the time,” he said. “A lot of artists and success stories come from Long Island.”

Visit Smart’wich at 640 South Broadway in Hicksville inside Francesco’s Bakery. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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