People came out in droves this weekend to wait patiently in line for one last sandwich stuffed to the gills with salami and mortadella, or for a generous portion of ravioli oozing cheese and tomato sauce. Genova Delicatessen, the old-school Italian joint that has been serving the East Bay for an astonishing 90 years, closed for good on Saturday.
The decision to shutter was spurred by rising rents and other increasing costs, such as utilities, said the owners, who also run the Salami Ravioli factory on Broadway and a deli of the same name in Napa.
Four generations of the DeVincenzi family have been associated with the deli at 5095 Telegraph Ave. in Temescal ever since a couple of years after it opened in 1926. As pointed out by the Mercury News, Genova Deli was a reminder of Temescal’s roots as an Italian enclave.
The deli was popular with a diverse cross-section of East Bay residents — from parents with their hungry kids fresh off a weekend soccer tournament, to local workers on weekdays.
Barbara Leslie, President of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, was there Saturday with her husband and son to experience the place one last time.
“We have been going to Genova Deli since the moment we moved into the neighborhood,” she said. “After countless soccer games, baseball games or just a hungry Saturday afternoon, the Genova team treated us like family often adding that extra ravioli to our son’s plate or favorite treat for our daughter.”
Oakland councilman Abel Guillén was also there, waiting for an order at the counter. He later posted to Facebook, “Bittersweet day when your number gets called for the last time.”
The spacious deli certainly always seemed to be busy. As Robert Williams remarked on Berkeleyside’s Facebook page, “Not once was there not a solid 15-minute-take-a-number-and-wait line — they sure are not going out of business due to lack of customers.”
Randy Villata mourned the loss, reacting to the same post: “There are very few real delis left in California. I used to go to Genova in the original location before I was old enough to walk.”
Luke Tsai, writing in the East Bay Express, argued there was no other other place like Genova — “nowhere else where you’ll find a whole lineup of wise-cracking deli men and bad-ass deli ladies who will assemble your sandwich to order meticulously, weighing out each portion of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and roasted peppers. There’s a strong case to be made that the “Genova Salami” — a monster of a deli sandwich stuffed with salami, prosciutto, mortadella, provolone, marinated mushrooms, and a nice hit of oil and vinegar — is the best cold sandwich you can buy in the East Bay, bar none.”
The DeVincenzi family have not completely ruled out trying to find another East Bay location for Genova’s. Meanwhile John Dobrovich, who represents the property owner, told reporters he is looking for a local operator to run a deli in the same space and hopefully hire back some of Genova Deli’s 20 employees.
Genova’s Napa store at 1550 Trancas St., open since 1985, will not be affected by the Oakland closure. On the Genova Deli website, the DeVincenzis wrote that they hope to “make it another 90 years” there.
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