You’re lucky to find a place to park on South Clover Street in Poughkeepsie. Cars line the curb up and down the block, all because Rosticceria Rossi & Sons Deli sits on the corner of South Clover and Delano. The shop is narrow and deep, hugging the sidewalk where picnic tables are set out in good weather for customers who can’t wait to devour their food.
Midday deliveries and catering jobs bring trucks and activity onto the side street: Visualize an alley like the ones in old Italian neighborhoods in the City (which might work better, but never mind). The Rossi family has served up a lavish array of sandwiches, entrées, salads, antipasto and specials to go for the past 40 years at this spot. They make do.
And they do it well. Established in 1979 by Giovanni and Angelina Rossi and her brother Victor Trocino, it was but a small grocery store where the locals could find the Italian fixings that they loved to eat. Emigrating from Italy to seek greater opportunities and provide their family with a better life, they followed the well-worn path of others. With cousins in the upstate area, the couple landed in Poughkeepsie “of all places – I don’t know why,” quips Roberto Rossi, one of their four sons.
He tells me that his mother Angelina, born in Calabria, had good business sense and worked that end of the operation. Now three sons, Roberto, Fabio and Mauro Rossi, co-manage the ever-busy deli. Roberto runs the front end, where all those customers order and wait on line for authentic homestyle Italian food, while Fabio is masterfully cranking it out of the kitchen in back. Mauro is the IT expert with website and social media savvy. “We all have our areas of expertise, and we work well together.” Except maybe during the holidays, he adds under his breath, implying that the 15-person crew is so busy and the shop so full of customers that it can get crazy.
Asked how old they were when they each started working in the shop, Roberto tells me, “We were always in the shop. We grew up next door, where my parents still live. If we wanted to go out, it was, ‘First refill this refrigerator,’ or ‘First crack these olives.’” It was probably the perfect job for teenagers who just needed a little spending cash. Roberto says that he started working there more regularly after college.
“I felt some pride in being a part of the Italian community. Poughkeepsie has become a diverse mix of great food. The Hudson Valley is rich with culture. To work to carry this on in our way – that’s what we do.” The evolution and success of the deli are now a Poughkeepsie legend. Just this past spring the Rossi family were selected for the Good Neighbor Award for their community work and were honored during Family Services’ 2019 Family of the Year Awards.
Almost two years ago, Rossi’s Deli opened a second location at Marist College, in the school’s North Campus Dining Center. Staffed by Marist’s food service company, the on-campus deli offers six types of sandwich a day (a survey of the students was taken to determine what they most wanted) and other selections from the extensive entrée menu. The staff there underwent training to operate with the same standard of quality as is maintained at the South Clover location.
“We make all the hot food for both locations here,” Roberto said. “We deliver to Marist twice a day. Our partnership works well to serve students on campus, who maybe can’t travel into town to get what they want, or they want to eat late.”
That standard of quality has earned the Rossi family a longstanding reputation. As you wait on line for your order – which, by the way, is a build-your-own endeavor if you’re in the mood for panini – you can’t help but gaze around the shop at all the shelves, walls and freezer and refrigerator cases full of authentic old-country foodstuffs and charm. Up front a US Marine flag is proudly displayed to honor Son Number Four, Allesandro, who is now serving our country – another gesture of following in Giovanni’s footsteps, who learned to cook in the military.
A strong sense of commitment to others – their customers and neighbors, the suppliers they’ve used for years, the City of Poughkeepsie that’s now populated by numerous ethnicities – is a predominant theme for the Rossis. They know that their success comes from offering good service. And Giovanni, who hails from Bardi in the Province of Parma, is well-known for his hospitable generosity.
“As the children of immigrant parents, building a sense of community has always been very important to us,” Fabio said. “For the past 40 years, we have made Poughkeepsie our community and giving back to causes that support and grow the neighborhood at large.”
Roberto concurs. “We do what we do because we love it. We do our work with a sense of pride.” He tells me that the family goes back to Italy almost every year. He says that people have a romantic notion of the beauty of the country and the life there, but he sees firsthand how hard farmers and others struggle to make it. Then he comes home with a greater appreciation for the opportunity that has been available to his family stateside – and an even-greater sense of dedication to offering the best in traditional Italian cucina to Hudson Valley eaters.
About those sandwiches – up to 300 made each day in both deli locations – you can choose from a variety of breads, meats and cheeses, toppings and condiments. There must be dozens of hot and cold entrée dishes to choose from, including lasagna Bolognese, chicken Francese, braised beef brisket, chicken, eggplant or veal parmigiana and too many others to list, along with soups and salads, veggie dishes, cookies and sweets.
Check out the website for “Today’s Menu” specials and your mouth will water. The Rossis do a huge catering business, too, and they will deliver to meetings at the office, parties and events almost any day of the week. If you haven’t yet experienced this authentic rosticceria and deli, you haven’t lived.
Rosticceria Rossi & Sons Deli, weekdays 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Sundays, 45 South Clover Street, Poughkeepsie; (845) 471-0654, www.rossideli.com.