Cindy Criscitiello credits her mom ("from the South, a great cook") for her initial inspiration to create an awesome macaroni and cheese dish. Criscitiello made and sold it in "little tent pop-ups" at summer festivals in Alaska, where she lived for a decade. When she moved to Madison two years ago, she wanted to continue, but figured mac 'n' cheese wouldn't go so well with our hot, humid summers. So she switched her focus to grilled cheese.
Grilled cheese has been a popular cart item in other cities, but Criscitiello's Melted will be Madison's first dedicated grilled-cheese purveyor.
Two years vending at Taste of Madison preceded Criscitiello's debut at this fall's city of Madison cart review, where her cart ranked as the highest-debuting new venture. "I was shocked," says Criscitiello, though she adds, "I worked my tail off."
Melted ranked #7 in the official rankings in a field of 53 carts, despite having chalked up zero years of seniority. Looking at the scores of the food only (flavor, menu, presentation) it showed up at #4. Looking at its overall scores, but tossing out the consideration for other carts' seniority, it placed at #1.
Criscitiello plans on using the winter for recipe-tweaking. She won't begin vending until next spring, when she's assigned a space between Banzo 2 and El Burrito Loco on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., just off the Square, and Saturdays at Carroll and State. She plans on featuring five popular varieties on a regular menu and a special that will last a week, with local cheeses, produce and meats. Bread that she hand-slices ("so it's a little thicker") comes from Batch Bakehouse. The cart also has a fryer, and garlic-cilantro fries and Tater Tots are in the offing.
"A lot of people have asked, why not tomato soup, too?" says Criscitiello. "But I don't want to spend the rest of my life making tomato soup. It's a little cliché for me." That said, she plans to offer little "shot-size sides of tomato soup, as an accent, like ketchup."