“I’d always wanted to experiment and do something different,” she said. “We thought, let’s do a full Italian deli.”
The menu of Castelli’s Deli-Café, which opened the last week of August on Highway 9 next to San Lorenzo Valley High School, deviates from the burgers, hot dogs and clam chowder she served at Andy’s Bait and Tackle Shop on the wharf — although those dishes are still available.
Castelli’s Deli-Café offers customers sliced meats and cheeses by the pound and a menu of specialty sandwiches, house-made pastas, salads and pizzas.
Phone orders are accepted, and Web orders will be soon.
“We’re carrying a lot of Italian goodies,” Chris Castelli said. “Our goal has always been to provide high-quality food. We make our own pizza dough and our own baked goods.”
With a staff of 10 people, including her younger son and daughter, “it’s pretty much a family-run business,” she said.
Chris Castelli explained that Italian food and culture became a part of her life in 1976, when she met her future husband, Roberto Castelli, in front of the Pantheon during a visit to Rome.
“My husband is from Rome,” she said. “We have a lot of Italian heritage in our family because of that.”
Roberto Castelli, who owns an Italian clothing store in San Jose, mans the espresso machine whenever he can, serving imported Italian Lavazza brand coffee, which he said is roasted only “once or twice” to avoid the burnt flavor many domestic types are plagued with.
“Roberto likes to make everyone coffee,” his wife said, adding that customers who enjoy the Lavazza coffee can buy it by the brick.
In February, after closing down Andy’s, Chris Castelli acquired the lease to 6965 Highway 9, where a series of eateries — most marketing to the students at the high school — had opened and closed. She spent the next four months seeking permits from the county to remodel the space.
Once the county gave the go-ahead, she had her eldest son, contractor Vittorio Castelli, add new countertops, a pizza oven and a convection oven. He also repaired the deck seating area and remodeled and painted the interior of the building, which Chris Castelli said was in disrepair when she moved in.
“It was trashed, just horrible,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of upgrading (since then).”
Chris Castelli, a retired state employee who spent more than 20 years working with developmentally disabled patients in San Jose, said she wanted the delicatessen to appeal to the entire community as a dining destination, not just a cafeteria alternative for students.
“It’s not just sandwiches — we offer so much more,” she said. “We’re hoping people will think of us for dinner, maybe pick up a pizza on their way home.”
So far, she said, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve just been very pleased with the response from the community,” she said. “It’s been a fun adventure to this point.”
At a glance
What: Castelli's Deli-Cafe
Where: 6965 Highway 9 in Felton
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday