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Stew Leonard's names food entrepreneur contest winners 

Stew Leonard, right, gets ready to eat a

Stew Leonard, right, gets ready to eat a meatball from FDNY firefighter Joseph Chiodi of Wantagh, one of four winners of Stew's Tank, on Thursday in East Meadow. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Stew has made a decision.

Grocery chain Stew Leonard’s has picked four winners, three of which are on Long Island, in "Stew’s Tank," a contest that offers entrepreneurs a chance to sell their food products in the retailer’s six stores.

“We want to help coach these four great entrepreneurial companies that we’ve selected … and sort of use our years and years of experience to help them be a success,” said Stew Leonard Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Norwalk, Connecticut-based business his father founded in 1969.

The winning products are being sold in Stew Leonard’s East Meadow store now but will be added to the retailer’s other locations if the business owners are able to handle the increased production, Leonard said.

The Long Island winners are:

  • Bacaro Original Foods Eggplant Meatballs, Massapequa Park — The product is a fully cooked blend of eggplant, panko, and ricotta and Asiago cheeses, sold in 12-ounce, six packs. Thomas Soluri of Massapequa and Joseph Bonacore of Oceanside own the meatball business and Bacaro Italian Tavern, a Massapequa Park restaurant that also sells the product, Soluri said.  The meatballs are made by a Farmingdale manufacturer.
  • Halesite Habanero Hot Sauce, Halesite — The product is an unstrained, organic, small-batch hot sauce made with only eight fresh ingredients.  The sauce is sold in a 7-ounce bottle. 
  • The Famous Meatballers, Wantagh — The Italian-style meatballs in marinara sauce are sold fully cooked in 24-ounce eight-packs.  Owner and Wantagh resident Joseph Chiodi, a New York City firefighter, uses family recipes for the meatballs, which are manufactured in Pennsylvania and sold in Stew Leonard’s East Meadow and Farmingdale stores, as well as at some other chains’ stores in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, he said.

Kitu Super Coffee of Manhattan was the fourth winner.

Stew’s Tank was launched in the spring with the aim of removing one of the biggest barriers for companies — exposure to customers, Leonard said.

The contest’s name is a play on the title of the ABC reality TV show “Shark Tank,” in which contestants try to convince a panel of business people to invest in their companies.

In April and May, more than 130 food entrepreneurs across the state entered the Stew’s Tank contest.

Twelve finalists presented their products to customers at demonstration booths in the East Meadow store in June, he said.

“And only these four really lit up the scoreboard,” Leonard said of the winners. Judging factors included sales numbers, social media activity and owner passion.

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