Back in the early 19th century, the Italians could be sponsored or they could sponsor a family from Italy. They were landowners and grew grapes, vegetables and other crops. The gist of this story is about one Italian man who started a little deli back in the early 1950s. (If you’ve ever been to an Italian deli, you know there is a big difference between Italian delis and supermarkets delis.)
Sal Drago moved the deli from Salvio and Galindo streets, by the old Concord Super Market, to its present location in the El Monte Shopping Center off Clayton Road in the late ’50s. Sal died in 1979 and his wife Liz and daughter Cindy took over the deli for a few years. Cindy said she worked there as soon as her arms were long enough to reach the sink.
In 1982, Cesto and Mary Pacchetti and Lou and Anna Ferrari partnered up and bought the deli from Liz, changing the name from Sal’s to Parma, a city in Italy. They still bought their meats from ItalFoods, an Italian wholesaler in San Francisco.
After six years, they were ready to sell. Friends Mary Totah and Marilyn Rovai became the new owners. When Marilyn died in 2011, Mary brought in her sons, Sam, Chris and Mark, a ready- made team, to help her. Mark went on to be a chef and Chris a teacher, but Sam loves the business and all the people who frequent Parma. He’s still there with his mother, selling the same meats that have always been served. People say there isn’t a better mortadella anywhere.
Mary and Sam are delightful human beings (from Palestine, actually) who can cook up the best Italian food you could ever want.
Clayton Valley Charter High School art students completed Parma’s rustic mural a few years ago – long before the city’s latest murals.
Stop by sometime and say hi to Sam and Mary. Sam is the proud father of a young daughter and, if we’re lucky, she will love the deli and it can last many, many more years.
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Carol Longshore has been a Concord resident since 1950. She is a community leader and past president of the Concord Historical Society. Send comments and suggestions for future topics.