The lunch rush is just beginning at Penticton’s Il Vecchio Delicatessen at 317 Robinson Street on a midweek March morning and customers are already lining up in the cozy eatery.
The line, which starts just before noon and on some days doesn't end until 5 p.m., shows the customer dedication for the sandwich shop. But what it is that keeps people coming back is harder to put a finger on.
“Whatever they put inside, the sun-dried tomatoes or the artichokes, just makes it the best sandwich I’ve ever tasted,” Barb Lewis, who has been a customer for several years, said.
“It’s just super good, nothing compares to them.”
“It doesn’t seem to matter what you put in them, you can’t duplicate the taste of an Il Vecchio sandwich at home,” said another customer who did not wish to be named.
Those reviews are easy to find online, too.
“Our reputation appears to be far and wide, especially on our Facebook page,” manager Acacia Carloni says. “We have people saying, ‘come and open one in Vancouver, Alberta or Ontario. People want us to open one all over.”
Il Vecchio’s started out in 1996 when Carloni’s grandmother opened the delicatessen on a back street behind Penticton’s Main Street.
“Within a week of operation she realized she needed something else to keep her going and to move the meat and cheeses, so we weren’t keeping the product too long,” Carloni said.
Her grandmother began selling sandwiches and it wasn’t long before they became the main item being sold at the deli.
Although they started out as an afterthought, Ill Vecchio’s sandwiches are anything but these days, with so many meats, cheeses and condiments to choose from Carloni says there are an infinite number of possibilities in creating a sandwich.
“I have no idea the number of combinations of sandwiches that are available. Customers can choose everything themselves for a custom-built sandwich,” she says.
Carloni said the most popular sandwich is a two meat and cheese classic Italian with cappicolo.
The deli’s main customers are business people in Penticton’s downtown, as well as students from Penticton High.
Busiest times are between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when as many as five staffers work behind the counter making sandwiches.
“The lunch crowd can start lining up at 9 a.m. in the summer, and some days it doesn’t stop until 5,” Carloni says. The deli also caters to schools before summer break, sometimes making more than 200 sandwiches before 9:30 a.m.
The delicatessen recently posted a notice on their Facebook page indicating they were putting sandwich prices up for the first time in several years.
“We’re known for reasonable prices for what you’re getting. We try to keep prices low but we haven’t done a price increase in two and a half years, and with the the cost of everything, we have to,” she said.
But even with inflation, it's still one of the best deals around.
Carloni says her most famous customer is Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who is a frequent customer when he is in the city.
“We’ve probably had other well known people in here, I just don’t know about,” she said.
Il Vecchio’s is open 9 to 5 Tuesday to Saturday right now and will open Monday as well starting in April.
The deli also sells grocery items such as pastas, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, imported marinated vegetables and specialty cheeses.
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