'Landmark' deli celebrates 30 years Italian grocery store offers family atmosphere

September 13, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

On Sept. 11, 1966, Les Rizzo sold two canoli and several canned items to Jean Regimenti the day before he officially opened Pastore's Italian grocery on Mountain Road in Pasadena.

Three decades later, Rizzo still has the three dollar bills Regimenti gave him. And he is still running Pastore's Deli and Italian grocery.

"I never thought I'd be doing this still," the 56-year-old owner said. "Some days, it doesn't seem like I've been here this long. Other days, it feels like I've been here for 100 years."

Pastore's hasn't been around that long, but it has become part of the community.

It has donated spaghetti dinners to local schools and sponsored more than 100 local baseball and softball teams.

State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno said he stops there at least three times a week for Italian subs and to conduct a little constituent business.

"It's a Pasadena landmark," Jimeno said. "Even my relatives from out of town want to go to Pastore's for their cold-cut subs. Some people go to Harborplace; we go to Pastore's."

To help celebrate Pastore's 30th birthday, the prices of many of the dishes and shelf items are being returned to their 1966 prices tomorrow.

From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., a pound of kosher corned beef, regularly $7.50, will be sold for $3. A $2.75 meatball sub will cost 99 cents.

"We're going to roll the prices back," said co-owner Brian Metzbower, who was the store's first stock boy. "We want to give back to the community what they have given us."

Pastore's history mirrors that of the community it serves. Rizzo opened the Italian grocery in a 600-square-foot storefront next to the 177 Liquors store on Mountain Road.

A year later, the store moved to a 900-square-foot vacant general store at the northwest corner of Mountain Road and Magothy Bridge Road. There, Rizzo worked about 100 hours a week, selling Genoa salami, pasta nests and banana peppers.

Space was tight as Rizzo, his wife, Marge, her mother and her cousin hustled to serve their customers. "If you had a dozen people in the store, it was crowded," he recalled.

Customers began requesting sandwiches, and Rizzo added refrigerators for soda, which he hadn't sold at his first store.

On Dec. 15, 1989, Rizzo moved the grocery to its current spot at Pastore's Plaza. With 6,000 square feet of space, he added a full-service kitchen and a dining area.

"Being in a business, you constantly have to make changes to please your customers," Rizzo said. "The business dictates what you do."

The store has adapted to changing times. Thirty years ago, business exploded during the summers, when vacationers trekked to Kurtz's Beach and other waterfront points in Pasadena and Gibson Island.

But as families left Magothy River resorts for Ocean City vacations, business slowed during summers. The prime season is during the holidays, when people snap up Rizzo's party platters.

And supermarkets have begun selling the same Italian grocery items that Pastore's sells. As a result, Rizzo stresses personal service to his 70-plus employees.

"That's the only thing that we can beat [the supermarkets] with," he said. "We know our customers, we know their names, and we know how they like their sandwiches."

The devotion is returned by customers.

"Very friendly service," said Kathy Arobey. "It's like a family."

Pub Date: 9/13/96

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