Before hand-carved pastrami, the Chicken Caesar wrap or the Parisian sandwich touched down in San Carlos, there was Gracie’s fresh roasted turkey sandwich.
Twenty years ago, Gracie (Graziella) Planessi had never thought about creating a signature sandwich. In fact, she didn’t even plan to open a deli. Gracie’s Delectables Deli, Catering and Desserts happened by accident, sort of.
In April 1991, Gracie took over a former deli with every intention of turning it into a bakery. Her sister told her to keep the deli and expand from there. So Gracie did, but quickly discovered a problem. She hated processed turkey. A food vendor suggested she try cooking her own turkey. So she did that, too.
“So I took a chance and cooked one. Within three months we were up to four (turkeys) a day. Now we’re up to 10 a day,” Gracie said, adding she bakes just the turkey breast, no dark meat.
Today, the turkey sandwich – with cranberry sauce as an option – is by far the most popular sandwich at the small, homey place that plays 101.3 in the background. Yelp reviewers also love the meatloaf.
While many restaurants – and businesses – have evolved or even radically changed concepts, Gracie has stayed in business by sticking to what she does best: serving simple, fresh sandwiches free of preservatives. Gracie also bakes oatmeal rolls daily and her own desserts too, including pies, lemon bars, cookies and more.
While Gracie makes it clear she loves her customers, calling them “great”, she’s heard a few complaints.
Once, a woman stalked out after learning Gracie hadn’t fully prepared the egg salad for a sandwich. “I’d peeled the eggs and had everything ready to go, but I like to mix it on the spot. It’s fresher that way,” Gracie insists.
And then there was the time a gentleman gave her a hard time about the prices.
“And I thought to myself, where else can you get a sandwich like I make for that price?” Grace said, adding she dug out her old menus and found she’d hiked her prices $3 in 20 years.
While Gracie says her deli business continues to do well, the local economy has taken its toll. When businesses got hit by the downturn, they cut their budgets which included scaling back on catered breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
But that’s not entirely a bad thing. “I’m not as young as I used to be and I cook everything from scratch,” Gracie said, adding some companies are beginning to place orders again. She’s also experienced a big uptick of personal party catering requests over the last several months.
With all the new restaurants opening with the latest, hippest décor, does she feel any pressure to update or remodel?
Gracie laughs good naturedly at this question. “No. I live in a world of my own. I don’t get into all that stuff. To me, I’ve got my décor, if you like it fine. If you don’t, you don’t come in for the décor anyway as long as its not yucky. I think it has taste but…to each their own.”
If about now you’re thinking, “Hey, wait a minute…maybe Gracie can make my Thanksgiving dinner!” Yes, she does cater Thanksgiving. But she’s booked solid and no longer taking orders. Maybe next year.
902 Laurel Street
San Carlos, CA 94070
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