It’s Different at Geraldi’s
WORDS Merlin Varaday | PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden
If you are craving an authentic Italian meal served with a personal touch, then Geraldi’s (10000 SW Canyon Rd.) is the place for you. The family-owned sandwich and pizza shop – which has grown to have as many as six branches at a time – has had a loyal following for 34 years.
What keeps their customers coming back? Generous sandwiches piled high with cold cuts, fontanini sausages or roast beef made in-house. There are also pizzas with homemade sauce (try the Spaghetti Pizza!) and a platter filled with lasagna, meatballs and garlic bread. Geraldi’s owner John David says long-time guests will drive from as far away as Canby or Battleground, WA for their favorite sandwich.
Geraldi’s has a strong catering game as well. They have long-standing relationships with numerous local businesses, including Nike, Columbia Sportswear and West Coast Metals. They have been known to put together 40 six-foot sandwiches (enough to feed 400!) for corporate events. Check out their offerings on Facebook or Instagram, or – better yet – swing by and see what locals and visitors alike have been raving about. Customer reviews echo the same refrain: a favorite, stand-out sandwich and pizza contender in Portland. As one customer put it, “It’s awesome to meet guys who are passionate about making delicious food!”
Geraldi’s is a family-owned business. Tell us about your family.
My father started the business back in 1983. He had this idea of bringing East Coast flavor to Portland. His mother was a wonderful cook, very well versed in all these family recipes. That’s where the name came from – it’s my grandmother’s maiden name, Geraldi. My father took her recipes – meatballs, lasagna, homemade sauces – and we have followed those exact same recipes for the last 34 years. We had a gentleman come in recently who had attended a catered dinner here for his prom back in the 1980’s! And now he brought in his family, his children. We always ask our long-time customers about what is going on in their lives. It’s such a deep, deep tradition.
I have been running several of our shops for the last 25 years. My father passed them on to me, after I moved out here when my children were very small – my daughter was barely a year old. Now I am passing on that wisdom to my own sons. My oldest son worked for the family business for a few years and then went on to do other work, and my middle son has worked in the restaurant for nine years.
When my father retired he offered our long-time employees to purchase the equipment and buy the shop for a nominal fee and own it themselves. It was his way of paying it forward and rewarding their hard work.
What do you love best about working with food? Food is such a huge part of life! You might as well make it special. At Geraldi’s, we will always do whatever it takes to make our customers happy. If you want something changed about what we made for you, we will absolutely take care of it.
I worked for Tony Sbarro founder of Sbarro’s and we are still friends to this day. He knows so much about customer relations and people. All of the menus at Sbarro’s say “guest” on them, not customer. And they say “welcome”! They started a family business back in the 1950’s. And they grew to have stores all over the county and outside of the country. It’s a fantastic story. That gave me such a great sense of how to run a business, but also instilled in me to have love for your customers and pride in the food you are serving.
What are some of your best food-related memories? Back East, food is like a religion. Growing up, we would go have Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s – it was like a Broadway show! The breadsticks were on the table, and there was wine for the adults and juice for the children … and we did this every week! Everybody sat down and they talked, and found out about what everybody was doing, all the aunts and uncles and cousins. My family in Portland has dinners like that now. I have four children, three stepchildren and two grandchildren. It’s a great tradition to hold onto. Food really brings people together.
What does good food represent to you? We had some visitors from Kentucky recently, who I imagine were expecting just a bite to eat, something to fill their bellies, and I think they were pleasantly surprised to discover just how delicious our food was. A huge part of what I love about this is not only the food we serve, but just making people feel good.
10000 SW Canyon Rd.
Portland, OR 97225