It’s easy to understand why the Afternoon Deli appeals to a broad range of tastes — a quick glance at the menu explains it all.
For the more traditional customer, there’s the pastrami Reuben sandwich boasting hot pastrami, sauerkraut, grilled onions, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing, grilled on swirl rye bread. Another option might be the BBQ cheesesteak, with your choice of grass-fed steak or natural chicken, grilled with smoked chili barbecue sauce, onions, sweet peppers and jack cheese on a French roll.
For the vegan and health-conscious crowd, there are a variety of burgers, which can be served on gluten-free buns, including the organic tempeh burger, the nut burger or the quinoa burger, served with all the fixings, including veganaise, a vegan spread similar to mayonnaise. There’s the Mediterranean tofu sub, or a falafel made from scratch, or a gyro made with strips of lamb topped with tzatziki sauce, feta cheese, tomato, onions, olive spread and organic baby spinach in a grilled French roll.
But that’s just a small sampling of the exhaustive menu, all brought to you by owners Bob and Colleen Gilletti.
“What do you like?” asked Bob, with a smile. “I guarantee it’s on our menu.”
He should know. The Gillettis owned and operated Cafe Elletti on Douglas Boulevard in Roseville for more than 16 years. The bustling, successful restaurant — which is still in operation — sold in less than a week once the Gillettis decided they were ready to switch gears and open a restaurant in Grass Valley.
“We had fallen in love with the Grass Valley and Nevada City area,” said Colleen. “While we were shopping in Nevada City one day, someone suggested we try the Afternoon Deli for lunch. The Baja tuna melt sold me on this place.”
Completely by coincidence, Colleen later saw that the deli was listed for sale online. They jumped at the chance to buy it from the original owners, who had run it for just one year. That was nearly seven years ago, and the Gillettis haven’t looked back. After living in Granite Bay for nearly 30 years, the couple moved to Nevada City six years ago.
“The original owners were struggling, so it took us about two years to build up our business,” said Bob. “But we have customers who have been coming to us since it opened. Once the word got out, we’ve routinely had a line out the door for lunch.”
Because the original menu was popular, the Gillettis opted to simply add on many of their popular dishes from Cafe Elletti to what was originally offered.
“I really liked the original organic menu here, so we just added to it,” said Colleen. “But the overall quality of our food is what keeps people coming back. Virtually everything is homemade, including all the sauces. I have to drive to Sacramento for some ingredients because they’re not delivered here.”
Located next to the Kmart garden area off the McKnight Way exit of Highway 49, the Gillettis know their off-the-beaten-path establishment is not a tourist destination. But that’s just fine with them.
“I love seeing the same customers day in and day out,” said Bob. “They appreciate what we do.”
“I love the people here — they’re free to be themselves,” she said. “This setting is much more who we are.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.