Located deep in the heart of San Rafael, both in location and in its family history, is Bruno’s Italian Deli, Market and Cafe.
This eatery offers classic and indisputably delicious sandwiches alongside meats and cheeses, salads, cannoli and a drink selection so expansive that even the most particular of people can find a fan-favorite beverage to pair with their meal.
The mouthwatering menu at Bruno’s, along with the stellar service, transforms the restaurant into more than just a sandwich shop. Instead, it stands as a local destination that keeps customers coming back time and again to partake in not only the food, but also the open and inviting atmosphere.
Steve Franchetti opened Bruno’s with his wife, Michelle Franchetti, and their children, Alina and Luca, after a 20-year-long career in the local wine industry with Trinchero Family Estates. Steve Franchetti opened the deli during the beginning of the pandemic and named the restaurant in honor of his father, Bruno, who moved to San Rafael from Italy when he was nine years old.
“Steve absolutely loved working in the wine industry,” Michelle Franchetti said. “But once the winery became larger, he wanted to explore something a bit more intimate and something he could feel closer to. The winery and the Trinchero family were wonderful to Steve, and they have many employees that have been there for decades. After 20 years, Steve just wanted to try something new, but not with the intent of opening a deli. He wanted to spend more time with the family and dive into something smaller with maybe a little more creativity.”
Steve Franchetti’s idea for Bruno’s was developed during the start of the pandemic while he was at home with his family. While his original plan was to return to the wine industry after a month or two of job hunting, the emergence of COVID drastically changed the availability of employment in his field. Instead of losing steam, he redirected his time and energy into brainstorming ideas for his own business.
“When Steve learned that there were no options in the wine industry, he decided to put together a business plan,” Michelle Franchetti said. “He had a lot of time to get creative during the beginning of the pandemic. He began to plug away at deli slicers and sandwiches, and soon I noticed the family, immediate and extended, became sandwich taste testers. Steve never waited around—he was a man of action and he put his focus towards plans to own and run a restaurant. It was a very sweet, intimate time for our family.”
After extensive research, experimentation and taste-testing, Bruno’s officially opened its doors in March 2021. The authentic and overall decadent sandwiches and accompanying drinks, desserts and bites were, without a doubt, well-received. The success of Bruno’s grand opening was evident in its five-star reviews and the positive feedback of satisfied customers.
However, it was not long after the successful beginning of Bruno’s that Steve Franchetti and his family were given unexpected and unfortunate news. On Dec. 20, 2021, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor.
“Steve exercised all the time, ate well and our neighborhood was really shocked when we learned he was sick,” Michelle Franchetti said. “His nickname was ‘Healthy Steve,’ alongside the title of ‘The Sandwich King.’”
Steve Franchetti passed away six months later, on May 25, 2022. Before his death, he attended the one-year anniversary of the business he created, in the company of his family and community.
“We’re really excited about what Steve created, and it makes it even more special that we’re getting so much attention,” Michelle Franchetti said. “Everything was going very well for Bruno’s when he got sick. We just want to share as much as we can of his memory.”
In the months since Steve Franchetti’s passing, friends, family, staff and the local community rallied around the family, offering their full and unwavering support in their time of need.
“The staff told me that my husband was such a good boss and, luckily, they were ready and could continue in his absence,” Michelle Franchetti said. “My sister-in-law, Anne-Marie, really stepped up when I was taking care of Steve. His sister, Suzanne, and his brother, John, as well. We had neighbors who came in to work shifts and people volunteered to help me consult on how to manage the business. Our community showed such support for Steve and our family.”
Alina and Luca, the children of Steve and Michelle Franchetti, continue to work at Bruno’s. The family hopes to keep the deli open as it serves as a connection to Steve Franchetti and his unparalleled dedication to perfecting the fine art of sandwich making. His business card reads, “Steve Franchetti, Chief Eating Officer,” and the motto of Bruno’s Italian Deli remains, “From our family to yours.”
“Being at Bruno’s helps the family feel connected to him,” Michelle Franchetti said. “He did everything there, including the pictures on the walls and the color scheme. We even spent a whole evening picking out the stools. We genuinely hope we can keep it open. The kids want it because it is their dad’s and, if it’s valued in the community, we want to keep it open.”
Over the next year, Bruno’s plans to extend its hours of operation to supply the breakfast crowd with fresh coffee, pastries and a top-tier breakfast sandwich. They are considering extending their hours until dinner for to-go orders only. The deli also offers catering for local events such as weddings, birthdays and family reunions.
“Most people’s reaction to Steve, who left the winery that he loved so much, then opened the deli, say, ‘Thank God he was home and that he gave his dream a shot,’” Michelle Franchetti said. “In hindsight, when the pandemic hit, my husband had more time with his family. Steve always said he wanted something to hang his hat on, something to be his. With the deli, he got to honor his dad, who is 92, and there’s a lot of connection and beauty to be seen in this.”
Bruno’s Italian Deli, Market and Cafe is located at 1304 2nd St., San Rafael. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 4:30pm and on Saturday from 10am to 3pm. To learn more about Bruno’s Italian Deli, visit their website at brunositaliandeli.com.