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Side Dish: Burlington convenience store gets a makeover

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Burlington's Radio Deli on Pearl Street changed hands last March, but for people who don't live in that 'hood, the news is just getting around now. According to Pam Scanlon, who owns the place with her partner Michael Niederer, "We wanted to get in there for a few months before we started making overtures to the community."

In some respects, the duo was already "in there." They've lived in an apartment above the store for the past four years and were regular customers. But now that they've had time to "clean, stock and evaluate," they've started to make some changes.

One goal: to carry more grocery items and staples for the folks who live in the neighborhood. The first step was adding some fresh fruit. "We started with bananas, but now we've got mangoes, nectarines, cherries and plums," Scanlon says. "It's nice to see little kids buying cherries instead of candy."

What else is new? Specialty wraps and sandwiches, like a number that pairs hummus with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil and sweet peppers. There's also a tomato-basil-mozzarella sandwich drizzled with balsamic dressing, and a cranberry walnut chicken salad.

The couple, who both teach computer courses at CCV, are looking to expand the catering side of the business. You know you're doing something right, Scanlon boasts, when an employee of the Department of Health asks you to cater his event.

What is the deli's old owner up to? Louie Manno, formerly of the Manno and Condon radio show, is looking to move his creative efforts to the boob tube. "I'm doing some television work, and I'm writing some treatments for food-related shows," he explains. Like what? "I don't have a fully formed idea, but I want to come up with something that brings out people's natural proclivity to cook. Cooking is a way of communicating," says Manno. "A lot of cooking shows are really regimented. I want to put together a show that encourages people to experiment more."

While he has a few serious pilots out on the Web, there's also a funny foodie film called Luncheon Meat. The half-hour bit spoofs Ken Burns' ultra-serious documentary style. It's available on veoh.com and rever.com.

If the TV thing doesn't work out, Manno's always got his famous meatballs. He sold Radio Deli's other recipes along with the business. Scanlon and Niederer license the meatball magic.

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