Apronomics: Mike Vitale
There is an undeniable charm to neighborhood establishments. Whether it’s the barista who knows exactly how you take your coffee or the store clerk who always asks about your children, we are drawn to places that represent community. Vitale’s Deli is a shining example in Glendale. Owner Mike Vitale is always ready with a kind word or a homemade dog treat for your four-legged friend. And there is no denying the appeal of his fresh sandwiches. As the son of the owners of Vitale’s Bakery on The Hill, he has community and good food in his DNA.
Vitale’s understanding of the importance of community was fostered during his childhood on The Hill. “It was the best neighborhood,” he recalls. “Everyone knew everyone; that’s one of the things I always loved.” As bakers, his parents were pillars of the community, and even though there were other bakeries in the area, he doesn’t remember any competition. “Nobody thought about sales,” he says. “Everyone had enough business, which made it better. Everyone just loved being around each other.”
The joys of operating a local business were clear to Vitale growing up, but he still remembers the hard work that came with running a bakery. He says there were many times when he and his family had to miss out on things because they were working at night. “Ninety percent of what a baker does is done when everyone else is sleeping,” he says. “It takes a lot of dedication to own your own business.” His mother often would bring him and his siblings to Vitale’s Bakery in the evenings so they could see their father and say goodnight.
Knowing the time and dedication involved didn’t stop Vitale from wanting to follow in his parents’ footsteps, though. “Baking and cooking are things I grew to love because it came naturally to me,” he says. “I worked with my parents forever and a day, but my wife and I wanted to do something of our own.” Vitale started with a pizza business, but like the bakery, the hours cut into time spent with his family. “We didn’t want to be in a business where we were trapped all night and couldn’t spend time with our two kids,” he says.
Their solution was to open a deli. Vitale knew he wanted his business in Glendale, where he lives. “It’s a great place, and it reminds me of The Hill because everyone knows everyone,” he says. But like Rome, this classic Italian sandwich shop wasn’t built in a day. Finding a suitable space in Glendale meant waiting eight years for a property once occupied by a beauty shop to become available. “We waited patiently, and after the unit came open, Glendale was very good to us,” he says.
Vitale’s Deli offers fresh-cut meat from Boar’s Head on bread baked at the family bakery on The Hill. Baked goods from Vitale’s Bakery also are available—while they last! Vitale credits his dedication to delivering quality food to his father. “My dad was a visionary guy,” he says. “He always said fresh bread and fresh meat make the best sandwich.” Family is part of all aspects of the business. Almost every sandwich is named after a family member. “It started with naming two after my parents and continued from there,” he says. “It’s a very cool way to pay tribute to the people who are important to us.” So, is Vitale’s favorite sandwich ‘The Mikey’ Muffaletta, named after himself? No, he admits to favoring ‘The Gracie’ Meatball, which also happens to be one of the deli’s best sellers.
Currently, Vitale’s Deli is carry-out only, though there are a few tables outside when it’s warm. Vitale says he is interested in expanding, but his focus is on keeping the ingredients fresh and being a neighborhood deli. Or, as he puts it, “I would like to keep bringing more of The Hill to Glendale.”