My husband and I used to frequent local delis in our youth. At the time, we thoroughly enjoyed thick, meaty sandwiches of roast beef or turkey from Matinecock Deli on Washington Avenue in Plainview. The store, which featured live chickens and a rooster out front, was a quaint little place that reminded me of the old Farmer’s Market on Hicksville Road in Bethpage. It didn’t look very clean by today’s standards, but it boasted delicious sandwiches and salads that had us coming back for more.
When the deli closed to make way for the Atria Assisted Living Facility that now resides on the old Matinecock site, Hubby and I felt a little disappointed. Sure, there were delis in the area to frequent for a thick Reuben or pastrami sandwich, but none had the local charm of that old farm with the chickens out front. We confided in my mom about this issue. She had a quick solution—use her deli, which was about three blocks from her home. I asked her the name, and she responded, “LaRosa Brothers”.
Ah, the famous LaRosa deli, located at 46 Wolcott Rd. in Levittown, which was directly next door to the Levittown Baptist Church. Mom told us never to go on a Sunday, because the line was literally out the door from church-goers. She marveled over the bread, which was firm on the outside and buttery soft on the inside. She continued to remark about how they sold “the freshest cold cuts in town.”
When LaRosa Brothers Deli opened in 1980, my dad was one of the first patrons in the store. He returned home with at least three pounds of cold cuts for us, along with a creamy macaroni salad that would knock your socks off. The rolls, he remarked, tasted like they came from “the city.” His eyes shone as he spoke and told us tales of fresh manicotti and ravioli in the refrigerated section, as well as pasta imported from Italy that couldn’t be found in the supermarket. He told mom about the industrial-sized tomato sauce cans that might serve my grandmother well, since she always cooked for at least 30 guests every Sunday. As he spoke, he stuffed a wad of thinly sliced bologna into his cheek and munched joyfully.
Dad visited LaRosa Brothers every Saturday, even after I moved out of our family home. He brought fresh bread home in a long brown paper bag, although sometimes the “heel” was missing. Three blocks away was still too far for my dad to wait for a deliciously fresh piece of crusty Italian bread.
When dad passed away in 1989, Mom continued the tradition of shopping at LaRosa. Whenever she craved a turkey club sandwich or some fancy pasta that she couldn’t find at King Kullen, she perused the aisles of LaRosa without disappointment. Oftentimes, she told us that the cups and plates she used at barbecues came from the deli.
Over the years, LaRosa grew into quite a business. Their deli was first rate, but their catering services shone brighter than the sun. Mom often catered holiday parties with salads and sandwiches from the Wolcott Road deli. Everything was always delicious and fresh.
Several weeks ago, my husband and I stopped at LaRosa on our way to Mom’s house. I purchased a few bags of gluten free pasta and a loaf of Italian bread, while Hubby purchased cold cuts and half a dozen rolls for sandwiches. Upon our arrival to Mom’s house, she advised us that she’d just been there after church for a turkey sandwich. I told her that I planned to return later that week to purchase more pasta and perhaps a tray of the ravioli from Antoni of Massapequa.
Alas, that was not meant to be. The following day, I saw a photo on Facebook that made my blood run cold. A sign hung in the window of the deli with the familiar red overhang: “CLOSED: We thank you for your patronage for the last 40 years.” I called Mom immediately. She cried.
This morning, I picked Mom up to take her to lunch at a local diner. As we passed LaRosa Brothers, we noticed a new sign in the window that announced, “LaRosa Brothers Food Distribution Inc. is open for business.” A telephone call to LaRosa revealed that the wholesale business continues to flourish, and one needs but to drive around the back of the store to purchase items off the shelf individually or by the case. For catering and cold cuts, the staff at LaRosa have recommended Nina’s Italian Deli at 355 Newbridge Rd. in East Meadow.
Although she can’t get her cold cuts at LaRosa any longer, Mom is still thrilled to be able to purchase her pasta from LaRosa’s wholesale store. For more information about LaRosa’s wholesale goods, please call them at 516-735-0441. Grazie, LaRosa Family, for 40 wonderful years of delicious food and for serving the community well.
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.