High Profile: Mama Mia!

Nick and Angela Marziliano
Owners, Sam’s Italian Delicatessen & Market

CVLUX caught up with Angela Marziliano in the kitchen of Sam’s Italian Delicatessen & Market. This Italian Treasure stands about all of five feet, and as usual, was working and having fun in her favorite part of the Deli—her domain and kingdom—The Kitchen.

We shared an expresso and Angela told me her story. She was born in 1943 in Bari, Italy. Her mother had five girls and one boy, and Angela sadly lost her father when she was only 16 years old. In her younger years she worked as a salesgirl. Since there were few jobs in Italy after the war, Angela, her mother and one other sister journeyed to Toronto in 1964, aboard the ship, The Constitution. There, the family joined her older brother, who had a bakery shop in Toronto. Angela didn’t speak any English, but learned simple words, washed dishes and could pick out pastries for customers and work the cash register.

Saverio Marziliano was born in Sannicandro di Bari, Italy, five miles away from Angela’s hometown, and in the same year, 1943. He sailed to Toronto in 1957, where he worked as a butcher for another delicatessen. In Toronto, both Saverio and Angela’s family knew one another (and Angela noticed that Sam always smiled at her when he came into her brother’s bakery!), so one night, when there was a huge blizzard, Angela’s brother asked Saverio (or, “Sam”) to take her home. After giving her several more rides, Angela’s mother asked Sam his intentions. “My intentions are very serious,” Sam replied, and Angela’s mother instructed him to go talk to Angela’s brother.

In January of 1965, Angela’s mother wanted to return to Italy. Angela and Sam became engaged in May of 1965, when it was the customary to wait two years before getting married, but Sam didn’t want to wait, so on February 12th, 1966, the two were married in Toronto. After they were married Sam asked her to quit her job. Meanwhile, Angela’s mother began sharing her fabulous recipes, which Angela began to cook at home. Sam’s sister in Sanger also shared some of her recipes with Angela. In March of 1967 Angela’s son, Nick, was born, so she cooked even more while taking care of their new baby.

Early in 1968 there was a grocery store and property in Fresno, at Clinton and First, which Sam and his brother-in-law purchased, then called S&S Supermarket. Sam continued to work as a butcher for the deli in Toronto. In 1972, Angela and Sam’s daughter, Carmela (who would later operate Bella Pasta), was born.

Several years later, Sam began to be frustrated with the cold weather of Toronto. He and Angela often came to Sanger, California, to visit family, and the warm weather helped Sam decide he wanted to relocate. In 1978 Sam pursued his immigration papers to become a U.S. citizen, and in 1979 he and Angela left the store in Toronto.

In 1980, with the help of his brother, Vito (a very well-known hairdresser in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and once a month at Fresno’s Northwest Spectrum), Sam began thinking hard about his own business, and ultimately decided to open his own delicatessen.

On its first day the delicatessen only made $250, and both Sam and Angela worried they had made a big mistake. But they persevered, and though business started slowly, it began to pick up as Angela started to really cook, making trays, meatballs and pasta. In 1986 they built the big counter and the kitchen in the back of the store.

In 1992, their son, Nick, who graduated from CSUF, re-joined the family business and brought even more of his parents’ dreams to fruition with the addition of the huge pasta room, the large kitchen for cooking classes, and the large dining area. In 2008, after Angela and Sam had been married for 50 years, the couple was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Valley Restaurant Association. Angela lost her beloved Sam in 2011, but has continued with her love of cooking and can be seen creating two dinners per week in the dining room and wine cellar for guests of the Delicatessen. Her favorite dinner is Brasciole, which is a flank steak cooked in a sauce for several hours.

“I can truly say, ‘We imagined and lived the American Dream,’” Angela tells me, “and I would not have had it any other way!” Bellisimo, Angela!

Feature Editor Ann T. Sullivan Whitehurst