Chiarello’s Deli and Catering owners Gary, Ralph and Catherine Chiarello, along with manager Lou Maldera, feel lucky to still be in business.
“We feel like dinosaurs,” Maldera said. “You’re not going to see places like this around anymore. There’s not many of us left because of all the competition.”
The crew said there used to be shops like theirs on every corner before chain stores took over.
Catherine’s brother originally opened the business back in the 1960s. Catherine used to bring her sons to the shop, and soon, they became employees at age 9.
When Gary, Ralph and Catherine took over the business 24 years ago, their dream was to start hot and cold catering.
“We do 90 percent of the work ourselves,” Ralph said. “That’s been our success over their years; that’s how we’ve had the consistency. There’s always one of us here. We don’t just foresee things. We’re hands-on owners. We were taught that when we were young.”
The crew believes the pressure that comes with catering has become one of their favorite parts of their jobs.
“There’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that you’ve pleased the customers that come through,” Maldera said. “There’s always pressure if you’re doing someone’s wedding, or communion and they’re counting on you to put on a nice party. After you do something like that, and they come back and compliment you and say everything was great; that’s a big reward. Most people only get married once, or have one communion, so you only have one shot at it.”
The staff believes the food is what has kept not only the catering, but the business itself booming. At Chiarello’s Deli and Catering, everything is homemade. The owners said they don’t believe in using cheaper products to make more money, but they do believe people will pay if you give them quality.
Chiarello’s also makes their own salads fresh on a daily basis.
“Not too many places do that,” Ralph said. “We give our customers quality and quantity for a reasonable price.”
An example of the corners Chiarello’s Deli and Catering refuses to cut is the mayonnaise it uses. For potato salad – one of their most popular items – they use Hellmann’s mayonnaise at $60 a case.
“It’s an expensive cost,” Maldera said. “Other people come in and tell us to try different kinds that they say taste the same for $20 or $30 a case. We all taste it, and it’s like garbage. We could make a lot more money, but it alters the product.”
The same goes for the deli’s meatballs. Though it may be easier and cheaper to buy a frozen bag of meatballs and add your own sauce to it, Chiarello’s continues to make them fresh, the old-fashioned way.
“There are so many companies’ – because of overhead costs – that are buying products that are already made,” Ralph said. “We’re able to charge a very reasonable price without the large overhead.”
Other than their fresh, reasonably priced foods, Chiarello’s attributes their success to their supportive staff.
“We have a lot of young kids that went to the local high schools that have been with us for a long time,” Ralph said. “Even after they get other jobs, they come back now and then to help us around the holidays.”
As Chiarello’s has been successful over the years, it’s been important to them to stay involved and give back to the community. They do so by sponsoring children’s sports teams. Whether it’s soccer, baseball or basketball, Chiarello’s is proud to help out.
“We like to give back to the kids that way,” Ralph said.
The crew respects their community because a great deal of them are regular customers.
“They are very, very nice people,” Catherine said. “If I know them, I call them by name when they come in. People like the personal touch. We’re not a chain store where you deal with a screen.”
Chiarello’s Deli and Catering is located at 1624 Hamilton Ave. in Hamilton. For more information, call (609) 586-4635 or visit chiarellos.com.