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Better Foods Deli celebrates 42 years

By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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Frances Lucchesi, the original owner of the Better Foods Deli on Douglas Boulevard, passed away on Dec. 23 at her home in Italy. For her son, Joey Lucchesi, the family news is bittersweet since the deli, a store that has been run by three generations of the same family since 1970, is celebrating 42 years of business in Roseville this month. Tucked away in an obscure setting off of Douglas Boulevard close to Downtown Roseville, the Better Foods Deli has a long and storied history, and it is among one of the best secret “hot spots” in the city, according to customers. Cirby Chitty grew up in Roseville and works down the street from the deli. She has been a loyal and frequent customer for 14 years. “I always know what I’m going to get and I know what to expect,” said Chitty, who now lives in Sacramento. “It’s always nice when you walk in and they know you.” Nora and Norman Bryant have lived in Roseville since 1963 and remember coming to the business when it was originally called “Joe’s Market.” “This is a real deli,” Nora Bryant said. “It’s not like going to Subway or anything like that. Everything is fresh.” Joey Lucchesi’s father, Joe, bought the business in January 1970 when it was just a grocery store after spending more than 10 years as a Safeway manager. In 1971, the store was turned into a delicatessen. “My father’s aspiration was always to run his own business, and he thought a small community would be the best place to do it,” Joey Lucchesi said. A native of Italy, Joe Lucchesi’s first job was working on the docks at the Port of Galveston in Texas. He moved to California in 1950, where he was joined by his wife Frances, who took a boat from Italy to be with her husband while he was working for the Safeway Corporation. Joey Lucchesi said his parents moved to Roseville mainly because they liked the small community lifestyle. “They wanted to get away from the big cities,” Lucchesi said. “When they first moved to Roseville, there were about 15,000 people in the city. They just wanted to relocate to a smaller community, to that style of living.” Lucchesi said his mother and father were the driving force behind getting the deli going, and they quickly made a name for themselves. “My father and my mother were very big about being community people, everybody knew them,” he said. “My father was well known and well loved, and so was my mom.” When the senior Lucchesi passed away in 1996, Frances essentially retired, handing the family business over to her son Joey, who now runs it with his son Jason, his brother-in-law and his sister. The restaurant’s walls are covered with sports memorabilia dating as far back as the restaurant has been open, offering standard fare such as sandwiches, soups, pasta, salads made from scratch and daily specials. Lucchesi says one of the favorites among customers is the Giuseppe Combo, a combination of mortadella, which is a thinly sliced Italian heat-cured pork sausage, salami, peperoncini, lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayonnaise, onions, pickles and cheese served on a sweet roll. Another house favorite is the hot pastrami sandwich — hot pastrami with melted cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles on a sweet roll. Many customers simply call in their order ahead of time and it will be ready and waiting when they arrive, and customers can either take their food to go or sit at one of the deli’s many tables. “We have a lot of (regulars) who come in here all the time,” Lucchesi said. “Most of them we either know by name or by what they eat.” Lucchesi said he has always thought that the deli never really did anything special over the top, but it’s just the way they do things that sets them apart. “You always get a greeting when you come in,” he said. “We know a lot of the customers by name. We know what they are going to eat when they come in the door.” Roseville resident Luke Patterson has been coming to the deli since 1970, and remembers when he was away at college, his father would ship him sandwiches from the deli through the mail when he complained about dorm food. “Everyone who works there is good people,” Patterson said. “Besides just really good food that is made to order, the people are friendly and it is a good environment.” Toby Lewis can be reached at tobyl@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TobyLewis_RsvPT.