+ By Christine Fillat + Photos by Kaitlyn McQuaid
If intriguing restaurant menus pull you in, then check out the description for InGrano’s Roast Beef Sandwich: “Coffee-rubbed roast beef, truffle aioli, pomegranate-carrot slaw, black garlic marinade served on our sourdough.” This is not your everyday, side-of-the-highway Maryland pit-beef sandwich. InGrano, a homegrown Annapolis sandwich shop and bakery located on Harry S. Truman Drive, is far from ordinary. Its sandwich offerings go beyond anything found in your typical deli.
InGrano’s offerings represent favorite sandwiches from around the world: chicken gyro, Wagyu burger, Cubano, chicken katsu with kimchi. They reflect a keen palate, one attuned to culinary delight, elevating what happens between two slices of bread into something very special. The reason for this specialization in bread and food, and what makes it successful, is the collaboration of owners Pericles Lewnes and Adam Pusateri.
Like a classic buddy movie —imagine characters like Fred and Barney, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt, or maybe even Timon and Pumbaa—Lewnes and Pusateri, both lifelong Annapolitans, have distinctly different skills and areas of expertise that work very well together. Lewnes is the master of the bakery, making all of InGrano’s beautiful breads. Pusateri, a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate who recently back from Las Vegas, puts together all of the flavor combinations with practiced élan.
Lewnes is a member of Annapolis restaurant royalty. His grandfather, Sam Lewnes, owned Sam’s Corner, where Lewnes’ Steak House now resides (it is presently owned by Lewnes’ brother Charlie). Lewnes remembers learning how to form crab cakes from his grandfather. But he wasn’t particularly encouraged to go into the restaurant business. After graduating in 1978 from Annapolis High School, he studied film in college and went on to work in film and video for commercials and movies.
The first independent film Lewnes directed was of a genre that Baltimore-area folks are used to, thanks to John Waters: the gross-out film. Redneck Zombies was made locally, on a shoestring budget, with friends acting and in production. The film led Lewnes to work in New York City and Los Angeles on a number of other strange and exotic science-fiction movies as well as on the then-nascent music video; a video Lewnes made with his filmmaking partner, Ed Bishop, for local band Bovox Clown won the group a week on the MTV Beach House.
Lewnes also worked with Jimmie’s Chicken Shack (helmed by Jimi Davies, Up.St.ART
Annapolis publisher), and his video of the song “High” pushed the envelope in cinema verité-ish beauty, with miles of footage of stage diving, killer guitar riffs, a pulsating barn, and flurries of chicken feathers. The dynamism of the band and its pure unleashed joy is palpable. Lewnes was thrilled with the result. “Then, the big question was, would MTV play it? They did!” he says. “Not only did they play it, they played on their show 120 Minutes, which was, for me, the only reason to watch MTV, as it played the best music with the most interesting and creative video. We were in their playlist for weeks and cited in their top 10. I was honored. Jimi stuck with me and took a chance. I’ll never forget him giving me and my team the opportunity to make that video.”
In the early 2000s, Lewnes took on a job editing news video for Reuters and Alhurra (the Washington, DC–based Arab language branch of the Voice of America). It was regular work, but didn’t inspire exactly the same joie de vivre as making music videos.
The kitchen called to Lewnes. He signed up for weekend classes at Anne Arundel Community College in baking and became an obsessed bread maker. “I became a very severe baker at home,” he says. “I kind of drove my wife crazy. I would say, ‘Today, I’m going to make 24 rolls, I’m going to make a French bread, and I’m going to put steam in the oven by throwing water into [it].’”
Lewnes would show up to his brother Charlie’s place with bread in hand. Mack Lewnes, Charlie’s son, would be there with his best friend, Adam Pusateri. “It was one of those loaves I took over to my brother’s,” Lewnes recalls, “and Adam, who was a little kid . . . strolled in. They’re like, ‘You made some bread!’ I was like, ‘I’m going to get severely judged, here.’ And he really liked it. That was the first time he had any idea that I had any interest in bread. I’m not quite sure if Adam remembered that moment. It was really important to me. I remember that.”
Pusateri remembers Lewnes as the fun uncle that would pop in and out throughout the years. “I always had a good relationship with him,” says Pusateri. “We have had similar interests in food, and he has a real passion for baking.”
Growing up in a large Italian family, Sunday dinners at the Pusateri house was a big deal. “I was the more reserved one, and my older brother was more of the entertainment factor, so I always tried to offer help by chopping herbs and doing anything I could around the kitchen,” he says. “That really is where it all started for me.”
His first cooking job was when he was 13 years old, frying chicken at the Annapolis Market House. While at St. Mary’s High School, he worked at Mangia Italian Grill & Sports Bar. After his graduation in 2006, Pusateri attended the CIA in Hyde Park, New York. He then returned to Annapolis and worked at the old Loews Annapolis Hotel and the Annapolis Yacht Club.
Pusateri moved to Las Vegas to pursue opportunities in an ever-changing food scene. He worked for fine dining restaurants up and down the Strip, in places such as Aquaknox, Sushisamba, the MGM Grand Las Vegas, and ARIA® Resort & Casino.
While working the graveyard shift at ARIA®, Pusateri formed Cut & Taste, a catering company, with Jeremy Jordan, a CIA classmate. A year later, they brought on a third CIA friend, Alex Barnett. “Cut and Taste catering grew over ten years to become the largest catering company in Las Vegas for off-site events,” says Pusateri, who maintains an active roll in running the business.
On trips back to Annapolis to visit family and friends, Pusateri noted a need for more variety in food offerings in the area. Mack Lewnes knew that his uncle was looking to open a bakery. Pusateri imagined a sandwich shop with homemade bread. And thus a business collaboration was born.
In March 2020, Pusateri moved back to Annapolis to open InGrano. As he drove from Nevada to Maryland with his fiancée and dog, his pickup loaded with belongings, the COVID-19 pandemic shut the country down. Despite the roadblocks associated with the pandemic, InGrano opened in December 2020.
Nowadays, business at InGrano is looking good. “InGrano has really just begun,” says Pusateri. “We have a lot of segments of InGrano that have been put on hold, but as we get to the other side of the dining restrictions, we are already starting to increase our offerings.” One example is the launch of a “supper club” on Saturday nights, during which the dining room is changed into more of a fine dining environment and offers a chef’s tasting menu. “We plan to explore all parts of the world through food and offer wildly different cuisines and our takes on them,” he says. “I’m really excited to dive into this with the current team we have.”
With its sandwich offerings, bakery of homemade bread, and supper club concept, InGrano is worthy of many a visit. And when you go, ask about the “secret menu”—it’s something super special, and rather expensive, but Lewnes guarantees that you will be satisfied. █
For more information, visit ingranobakery.com.