Photography by Kathy Tran.

Lou Olerio moved to Dallas from his hometown in New England in 1995 to attend Southern Methodist University, and he never left.

Olerio started a homebuilding business here, and after some success with that, he decided to open an outpost of his uncle’s Rhode Island restaurant, Shayna’s Place, as a side project.

He lives in Preston Hollow but was familiar with Oak Cliff from years of doing business at the Oak Cliff Municipal Center on Jefferson Boulevard, where building permits are filed.

“I thought it’d be a great community to embrace the whole concept of Shayna’s,” he says. “And I think it’s a great addition to Oak Cliff because there’s nowhere to get a sandwich, besides Jimmy John’s.”

First, the concept: Olerio’s uncle started Shayna’s Place, inspired by his daughter, who has Down Syndrome and a passion for food and cooking. The Dallas restaurant offers job training for special-needs adults who come in once a week to work at Shayna’s.

Second, this ain’t no Jimmy John’s. Shayna’s uses high-quality ingredients, and it shows. Ciabatta comes out shiny and soft, encompassing as perfect a deli sandwich as you’re bound to find in Dallas.

Employees bake their own bread and slice their own meats and cheeses. “It’s a different quality sandwich than the chain places,” Olerio says.

They also serve breakfast all day — avocado toast, egg sandwiches on English muffins or croissants, bagels and lox, smoothies.

The top-selling sandwich, Vinny’s Kitchen, has prosciutto di Parma, salami, capicola, sharp provolone, tomato, red onion, hot peppers, romaine and dressing on ciabatta.

The shop also makes whole-grain bread and offers Udi’s gluten-free bread.

Besides sandwiches, the menu features a choice of five big salads, plus soups, always New England clam chowder and a soup of the day.

The restaurant serves Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters coffee and Oak Cliff Beverage Works’ Real Sugar Soda. A huge ice cream sandwich, with chocolate-chip cookies baked in-house, costs $5.

After 14 months as a restaurateur, Olerio finds that this side business is more project than profit. “Everybody seems to like the food,” he says.

Shayna’s Place

1868 Sylvan Ave.


7 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday,

8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday,

9 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday