Gracie’s: Still Talkin’ Turkey

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.

Gracie’s hasn’t changed much since it first opened on a section of Laurel Street near Arroyo.  “There used to be nothing but me here,” Gracie recalls.

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.

Gracie’s Delectables

902 Laurel Street

San Carlos, CA 94070

650/595-4049

Hours:

Monday-Friday 10am-4pm

Saturday 10am-2pm

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  1. Karen says:

    Walking in to Gracie’s to get a sandwich (her soups and desserts are delicious, too!) is like walking into Cheers! If you’re a “regular” she knows you by name and if you have a regular order she remembers and you she’ll whip it up for you without you saying a thing. While she’s best known for her turkey sandwiches (with so much turkey and so hot you can see the steam rising) her tuna/egg is awesome. One suggestion, though, I won’t repeat (turkey/salame – I should have ordered 2 sandwiches) – SORRY, Gracie!

  2. Margaret Pye says:

    Gracie’s is the best! I’ve been a neighbor of her shop since 1994. She used to save turkey scraps for my dog. She is always there at the shop early in the morning — the oatmeal rolls are delicious, no matter what (turkey? egg salad?) she puts on them. The neighbors love the year-round scent of roast turkey wafting around the block. Thanks to you, Spy, for this profile!

  3. debramonroe says:

    Here’s the great thing about journalism – if you also happen to live in the community – you get to find out about stuff other people have known about that’s totally new to you. Gracie’s is a case in point. A couple friends had been talking about the deli for years…otherwise, I might have missed this little gem.

  4. Stef Maruch says:

    Marsha’s Lunchbox, at 760 Industrial Road, isn’t in the fashionable section of town, but they also do a great fresh turkey sandwich.

    I’m looking forward to trying Gracie’s too now, thanks to your article.

  5. Karen says:

    When did Marsha’s start serving fresh turkey sandwiches? I used to work on Industrial and walk there when I wanted something quick (we’re talking 5 years ago). PLUS, while my Thanksgiving was very nice, the turkey (no, I didn’t cook it) was dry…..I KNEW I had to go to Gracie’s to eat delicious turkey….the sandwich was so filled the scotch tape didn’t keep the paper closed (I don’t waste time with a bag) and it popped open by the time I got home. So moist and tasty – it’s like Thanksgiving (especially if you have her add cranberry) every time you eat her sandwich!

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