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Everyone Knows Angelina’s

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

Angelina Rando.

Richmond District native Angie Rando was just 22 years old when she opened the doors
to an enterprise that would become an institution. Veiled in a cheerful green awning on the corner
of California Street and 22nd Avenue, Angelina’s Deli-Cafe has served the local close-knit community for 35 years, and earned a reputation with foodies in all corners of the city. 

Rando’s decision to enter into entrepreneurship came from passion and circumstance rather than cutthroat ambition. “My parents own the building,” she says. “There was already a cafe in it that was coming up for sale and my dad asked if I’d be interested in buying it. I just remember thinking, ‘I don’t know anything about the business.’” But what she lacked in professional know-how, Rando made up for with experience and enthusiasm. “My grandparents on my dad’s side owned a grocery store, so when I was really young, I spent a lot of time behind the counter. And I’d always worked a lot in different jobs around the city — I knew that just being nice to people could bring in business.” 

Sincere kindness has certainly been part of the winning formula that’s kept Angelina’s a mainstay for more than three decades, but a killer menu doesn’t hurt either. Born into an Italian family with a penchant for delicious dining — “nothing is more rewarding than feeding people!”— Rando creates recipes that incorporate comfort food classics with a modern touch. “Kale is so popular, we now have two kale salads!” she laughs. “I’ve found that the challenge is you have to stay the same, yet also change. We’ve always had very simple, clean food. I have an incredible crew of eight full-time kitchen people, and what we decide to put out is pretty collaborative.”

Rando and her team get to work at 5:45 a.m. each morning, warming the ovens for baked dishes like lasagna and sweet treats like cookies and cupcakes as well as prepping platters for catered events. The doors open at 6:30 a.m (7:30 on Sundays), and customers soon line up for morning espresso drinks and breakfast staples. And it’s those loyal patrons whom Rando credits for her continued success. “What’s really cool is that we have customers who come in three times a day,” she says. “It’s just so nice to become so familiar with them. I’m just trying to keep things the same for as long as possible — we’ve only stayed in business as long as we have because people keep coming.”

Rando answers some random questions:

Favorite dish on the menu?  “People are crazy for the chicken parm, and I pretty much love it also.”

Most controversial deli cut? “When I got rid of the dill turkey salad, customers went crazy. It was really good, but it was mayo, half and half, dill, and turkey, and at one point I thought, ‘We can’t keep serving this, we’re going to kill someone!’ I felt like it was time to try some new things.”

Most memorable customer? Rando says Robin Williams, who lived in Sea Cliff, was once an Angelina’s regular. “He was the nicest man,” she says. “He was very kind to us and always so polite and sweet.”

What makes the Richmond so special? “It’s one of the few places where people really do know each and talk to each other — I’m not sure why that is, but it feels old-fashioned.”

 

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