By Nina Silberstein
Do you ever wonder why entrepreneurs choose the names they do for their businesses?
Let’s look at Sebastiano’s Sicilian Deli for example.
There happens to be a long line of men from Sicily on chef co-owner Elise Gold’s side of the family named Sebastiano: her great-grandpa, his son and now Elise and her husband, Daniel’s, own son.
It’s interesting to consider why people choose to go into the line of work they do. So, when you read the Gold’s story, you’ll understand why a neighborhood deli is so fitting.
Elise originally hails from farm country in NJ, and grew up baking at home with her aunts and nonnas, putting out serious volumes of holiday cookies each year.
Elise worked for Teach for America after college and then served in AmeriCorps for three years, then went on to study baking and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, California. That is where she met Daniel.
Her first job in Portland was at Ken’s Artisan Bakery and she did a lot of the fine pastry production there for a couple of years.
Daniel’s parents met as teenagers at Reed College in the 1960s, and he was born and raised in the Bay Area in the suburbs of Berkeley.
He grew up cooking and his best friend’s mom was a private chef. He worked for her and other chefs in the Bay Area before he enrolled at the Culinary Institute himself.
His first job in town was at Higgins Restaurant more than a decade ago, worked predominantly in the sales and business side of the food industry, and most recently, for a nationally-recognized chef as general manager of his beverage line. Before that, he helped grow brands in the natural foods industry.
After opening Sebastiano’s in June of this year, the Golds say the summer was great and the reception from the neighborhood has been strong, considering the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. With a lot of repeat customers and people expressing enthusiasm for their efforts, they have been focusing on the creative side of their craft and doing what they do best.
Muffulettas and desserts are their most popular items, but they have avid fans of their hand-pulled mozzarella and house-baked focaccia.
Sebastiano’s started a weekly, outdoor “Sicilian Sips” wine tasting event for a few weeks before the Oregon wildfires hit, but they have since put that on hold as their outdoor area doesn’t work well in inclement weather.
They continue to carry a variety of exceptional, affordably priced Sicilian wines customers can enjoy at home.
Open four days a week for lunch, in addition to the core hours as a deli, Sebastiano’s welcomes special orders, prepares pop-up Sicilian suppers for takeout, provides a bit of catering and does some wholesale business.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has crushed a major portion of their business model. Their landlord is resistant to a semi-permanent, covered structure in the back of the building, and since there isn’t enough room in front of the shop, seating is not available.
Without seating, beer and wine sales by the glass have disappeared because customers take their meals home. While that’s good from a public health perspective, it’s very difficult for a restaurant’s profitability.
In response, the Golds have adapted by expanding their kitchen into the small seating area and investing in a Dutch door to safely accommodate walk-up customers. As 90 percent of their customers place their orders online, they offer a no-contact pickup option in the rear parking lot.
What makes sense for the Golds now is to focus on what makes them unique – their food and baked goods. They’ve started a muffuletta meals drop-off program for offices and are growing the wholesale side of their business with their Sicilian cookies and olive oil cake.
Interested in learning more? Sebastiano’s would love to hear from you.
Sebastiano’s Sicilian Deli
411 SE 81st Ave.