By Jon Moffett
A wedding soup sandwich? The Rockets’ concessions aren’t your average football fare.
LOWELLVILLE — The concession stand at the Lowellville Rockets’ home football games doesn’t serve just your average foods.
Then again, The Hard Rocket Cafe isn’t just your average concession stand.
“Well, we do the basics like pizza and pepperoni rolls for those that like that kind of thing,” said Phyllis Nolfi, who runs the Lowellville concession stand during the high school football season. “But, Lowellville is known for its food; we like to eat in Lowellville. So, we wanted to offer the people that were coming to visit for our games some of Lowellville’s traditional food.”
Nolfi said Lowellville has a lot of Italian families. The Italian community has inspired some of the menu at the Hard Rocket Cafe.
The concession stand serves cavatelli and homemade meatballs, wedding soup, chicken-and-roasted-red-pepper sandwiches, stuffed peppers — both hot and sweet — and soufrit.
“Soufrit is a little bit unusual,” said Nolfi. “It’s chicken hearts and gizzards in a hot, spicy sauce with peppers, onions and mushrooms. But, it went over well; we sold out.”
The interesting foods don’t seem to scare people away, but rather draw people in, said Lowellville athletics director Dennis Hynes.
“People will come on Friday nights just for the food and not even stay for the game,” Hynes said.
Nolfi said the Hard Rocket Cafe is more like a restaurant than a concession stand. She added that people outside of Lowellville come just to try the food.
“We’ve become pretty popular with the community, and even outside of the community in a lot of areas,” she said.
Fans of the visiting team have also taken notice to the expansive menu the concession stand has to offer.
“I told my husband, ‘Don’t eat supper; we’re going to Lowellville tonight,’” said Rhenea Shableski of North Jackson.
Her husband, Joe, added, “You always eat well when you come to Lowellville.”
And Nolfi makes sure people eat well. She said she learned to cook from her husband’s grandmother shortly after they were married.
“The first week that I was married — and I’ll be married for 29 years in November — instead of going on a honeymoon, I spent it with my husband’s grandmother, learning the basics, because that was a necessity,” Nolfi said. “My husband said, ‘If you feed me, you’ll keep me happy for life.’”
Nolfi, who graduated from Poland, married her husband when she was 19 and moved to Lowellville. She has had four sons graduate from Lowellville, and a daughter, Gianna, who is a senior cheerleader. Nolfi owns a catering company, and says her customers often suggest ideas for foods to serve at the concession stand.
One suggestion was made by a friend for a variation of wedding soup. Nolfi said her friend wanted wedding soup, but it was too hot outside. Nolfi then put together a wedding-soup sandwich — chicken, meatballs and greens on a toasted bun — and sold it at the concession stand.
Nolfi said she takes pride in her work and enjoys that people know her for it. She said she thinks the community is becoming more recognized because of the Hard Rocket Cafe.
“I think Lowellville is like one big family; we support each other,” Nolfi said. “And if you come to a Lowellville football game, you’re going to be entertained and you’re going to eat well.”