If you’re planning to come to Bertucelli’s La Villa Deli in San Jose to grab lunch or dinner, you should arrive early—or be prepared to wait in a long line that can, at peak times, stretch out the door. A large, efficient staff keeps things moving, and the food is worth the wait.
The crafted deli sandwiches and classic Italian entrees are main attractions, and you can almost taste the food as you breathe in the aroma that infuses the small shop on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen.
If the line is too daunting, a refrigerated case by the door filled with their signature handmade ravioli, made of beef, ricotta cheese, feta cheese, chicken and lobster offers a quick escape. Owners estimate the kitchen turns out 1,000 raviolis per day, and up to 2,000 during holidays and special events.
“I have been coming here for years,” regular customer Maria Carter Giannini told San José Spotlight. “My husband and I love the ravioli—they just melt in your mouth. When you come here, you know you’re always going to get something delicious.”
Ravioli was first introduced at La Villa by Ann Giacomelli, who, with her husband Frank, founded the deli in 1947. Dave and Patty Bertucelli bought the business in 1988, and while Dave is now retired, Patty still works in the kitchen. Their daughter, Tricia Hollywood, and son, Chris Bertucelli, are co-owners in the business.
Chris Bertucelli’s namesake, the Chris Combo sandwich, is the most popular and also a secret menu item—so secret that nobody at the deli would disclose its ingredients. Bertucelli would only say it’s “filled with meat, cheese, love and tenderness” and that it’s a favorite of local sports teams, including the San Francisco 49ers, who regularly order it when they are on the road and for postgame meals.
Less of a mystery is the assortment of standard sandwiches such as pastrami, egg salad, corned beef and prosciutto. But why order something that prosaic when you can get the “Death Sandwich,” which Bertucelli described as a “gigantic meatball sandwich: four meatballs on garlic cheesy bread with grated cheese.”
But the deli counter is your last stop as you work your way through the line. After the refrigerated case, you pass a vast selection of fine Italian imports: pasta, vinegar, olive oils, wines and cheeses.
After that, you are met with true temptation: the steam table, with more than two dozen dishes to choose from, all drawn from classic Italian cuisine and hand-prepared in the kitchen.
“We do incorporate some new things every now and again to see if they fly,” Bertucelli said. “But our customers are pretty used to our menu, and I think a lot would be heartbroken if some were not there.”
The table includes fat artichokes stuffed with breadcrumbs and cheese, eggplant parmesan, oven-roasted chicken, pasta shells mounded high with cheese, beef and spinach, cannelloni filled with cheese and spinach, thick-layered lasagna with either beef or broccoli, bell peppers with beef and rice, and, of course, ravioli. Daily specials are shared on Instagram.
Bertucelli attributes customer loyalty to the quality that comes from everything being produced in-house by an experienced team, including some employees who’ve been with the business since his family purchased it.
“You can definitely go other places and find cheaper versions or bigger portions of the food that we sell,” he said. “But you will not get the quality. The feedback we get from our customers is absolutely humbling, and that’s exactly what we work so hard to hear.”
Contact Robert Eliason at [email protected].
Editor’s Note: The Biz Beat is a series highlighting local small businesses and restaurants in Silicon Valley. Know a business you’d like to see featured? Let us know at [email protected].