Sam’s Italian Deli and Market: A Fresno landmark

By ELISA NAVARRO, Student Writer

The moment you walk through the doors of Sam’s Italian Deli and Market on the northwest corner of Clinton and First, you’re transported to a small Italian deli in the heart of Rome. The aroma of freshly baked breads and pasta, Italian meats and cheeses, and red and white wine fills the air, overwhelming your senses. History fills the room in photographs hung on the walls — of Nick Marziliano’s father, Sam, at the deli when it first started back in 1980, and of family, friends and prizes for best restaurant in Fresno. You grab a number and then place your order with one of the friendly staff who chats you up about the weather, how your day is going, and what your plans are for the weekend.

You know what it feels like? It feels like an Italian vacation, right here in Fresno. For those few aromatic, flavor-filled minutes you spend eating your fresh deli sandwich served on warm sourdough bread, enjoying causal conversation and making new friends, you’re in a better place. In fact, you’re in Sam’s Deli, and your experience is exactly what Nick, his dad and his mom hope are hoping for.

A graduate of the Craig School of Business, Nick Marziliano (1993) said his family’s goal is to “…try and build an experience. When you walk in the door we want to make an experience for you because we have so many different things. We have a full deli counter, a lot of different meats and cheeses, different salads and entrees, and everything is made from scratch right here.”

“It’s almost like a landmark…It’s what I grew up with, it’s what I know, and I love it.”

After graduating, Marziliano worked for Sysco Food Services for three years, then returned home to work with his mom and dad, modernizing and expanding their business.

“It was my choice to come back in 1996 and that’s when we decided to get more into catering. I also started our wine department, and we got into a lot more specialty foods and different parts of the business itself and then it just kept growing from that point on.”

As Nick became more familiar with the family business his dad gradually stepped back, letting Nick take the lead.

Nick and his father Sam

“I think after about three or four years he kind of started seeing that things were changing for the better and he started really releasing his responsibilities onto me and he was able to do more of what he wanted to do, which was interact with customers. He didn’t have to worry about running the operation and he got to do what he loved, interact with customers.”

“My dad passed away in March of 2011 from cancer, unfortunately, so it’s my mother Angela and I now. We are the co-owners of Sam’s Italian Deli, but I run every part of the day-to-day operation.”

“My favorite part of the job is really just the passion for the food…and our customers. They become your friends and you can never get tired of all the positive things people say. It’s recognition coming back to us and to my staff that we are doing a great job. We are providing the service and the product that people are looking for.”

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