Verona lies in a rich valley in the Veneto Region of Italy. It's halfway between Venice, which is one hour to the East and Milan, which is one hour to the West.
Surrounding this old Roman city is the Valpolicella wine region on one side, the Soave region on the other and the Bardolino on the third. The great mountains of the Dolomite complete this city's stunning location.
Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy is about 20 minutes away and is surrounded by small, picturesque villages that can be traveled to by car or by ferry.
Sam's Italian Deli & Market
Interview with Nick Marziliano | June 2021
By Natasha Biasell, Ivy Public Relations
Our first Italian history story features the beloved Marziliano family, owners of the renowned Sam’s Italian Deli & Market in Fresno, California. Sam’s was originally owned and operated by Sam & Angie Marziliano, and after Sam’s passing in 2011, the business has stayed in the family and is now owned by their son Nick. For more than 30 years, this award-winning deli and market has provided fresh Italian food, homemade pastas, sandwiches, wines, and much more for local Italians or anyone in search of delicious and authentic Italian cuisine. We spoke with Nick about his family business, his traditions, and why he’s proud to be an Italian here in Fresno.
Where in Italy is your family from?
Both of my parents are from the Puglia region of Italy - my mother is from Bari, a coastal town near the heel, and my father is from a little inland, agricultural town nearby called Sannicandro di Bari.
How did Sam’s Italian Deli & Market get started?
After they first emigrated from Italy, my parents owned and operated a small market in Toronto. My aunt lived on a ranch in Sanger and every summer we would go as a family to visit her. My parents fell in love with the land because the climate reminded them of the Puglia region in Italy. Initially my parents wanted to own farmland in California, but the economy was in a recession, land prices were high and crop prices were low.
In 1976 my father bought the building in Fresno - our current location - as an investment property, and we eventually moved to the area in 1979. The building was being rented out as a grocery store, but the recession took its toll and the grocery business was no longer viable. My dad decided to fix up the building and turn it into his own market. Customers kept asking him, “Can you make prosciutto?” “Can you make fresh Italian sausage?” At the time a post office was next door, and the mail carriers would always ask for sandwiches. My mom and dad started making Italian food daily and soon realized there was a need in Fresno for a bonafide Italian market.
What are your earliest memories at Sam’s?
I was 12 years old when Sam’s first opened. We used to make full Sunday dinners as a family with ragu and pasta, and my mom would make the sauce in the back of the shop on an electric burner. Customers would smell the sauce
cooking and ask if it was for sale. My dad said “Yes, for $1!” and the idea snowballed from there. All of my free time and holidays were spent either working at the shop or at the family ranch.
What makes you proud to be Italian?
The food, of course! Food is a way of life for Italians, and the same is true for Italians who live in the United States. Go to any major city and you’ll always find an Italian restaurant. I also love how the Italian culture places an importance on the family unit. There are a few things we Italians all take very seriously: Food, Family, Fashion, Vacation, and Cars!
What are some similarities between Fresno and Italy?
The rich, agricultural land here in Fresno reminds me of the land in certain parts of Italy. The regional culture is also similar, where you have one main city, like Fresno, and smaller agricultural towns in the surrounding region.
What is something about Italy you’d like to see replicated here in Fresno?
I wish we could recreate the open markets and the lively evening scene that exists in Italy. I also love the little samplings and appetizers that are famous in Italy – the small courses of food and drinks like aperitifs or amaros that are more common. Most of all I appreciate the laid-back culture that we don’t have here. My dad used to say Americans like to work too much, and that we move too quickly. As I get older, I really understand what he meant.
Italians really know how to slow down, take time off, and enjoy life. That’s why I decided to close the shop on Sundays and Mondays so all of our employees have time to be home with their families. It was the best business decision I ever made.
How do you stay connected to your Italian heritage?
I visit Italy as often as I can, and I communicate with my Italian relatives often. My business here at Sam’s also allows me to stay connected in a very real way. Some of my customers speak to me in Italian and I can still understand everything they are saying.
What is one of your favorite Italian traditions?
It is no surprise that our family traditions are primarily based around food, and we hold on to them dearly. Every Christmas Eve we gather and put on a traditional “Feast of the Seven Fishes” with all of my cousins.
How can Fresnans Experience a Taste of Italy?
There are so many wonderful Italian restaurants here in Fresno. My sister and brother-in-law own Bella Pasta, and they make a delicious fettuccini bolognese. Parma makes wonderful dishes from that specific region – I love their Fiori di Melanzane (flower-shaped pasta) and their Antipasta Misti (assorted appetizers). Five Restaurant makes a great linguini and clam dish, and I love the pizza and agnolotti at The Annex Kitchen.
Thank you, Nick!
We look forward to enjoying out next meal at Sam's!
Sam's Italian Deli & Market
2415 N First St, Fresno, CA 93703
Tuesdays - Fridays: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. | Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Click here for a printable version of this interview.
The Verona Sister Cities Wine Club quarterly wine club featuring two bottles of wine from the Veneto region of Italy. Each quarter, wine will be selected by Chris Shackleford the Executive Chef, Sommelier and Owner of Trelio Food and Wine located in Old Town Clovis.
Wine Shipments will be available for pick up for local residents. Delivery is available for those outside of Fresno region at an additional shipping fee.
Click the button below to download our Membership Form. Send your completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Verona became a Sister City with Fresno in 2008 and since its inception has participated in four delegation trips including one by the Mayor of Verona to Fresno to meet then Mayor Ashley Swearengin. While keeping this active relationship with our Veronese friends, we work hard to develop a committee to best reflect a well-rounded delegation that best represents our community. Largely an agricultural region, Verona was the perfect city to partner with in order to share knowledge of similar environments, increase agricultural trade and better understand others around the world.
How do I join a delegation trip?
If you would like to be considered as a delegate member for the Fresno Sister Cities program, you must first become at paid member of the group (Cost $40) which allows you to serve on our committee. The Verona committee is comprised of 8-12 members of the community who plan delegation trips, host delegation trips from Verona and annual fundraisers to raise awareness for the program and assist in travel costs for delegates. Verona is actively looking for new members in the fields of:
-Agriculture (Predominantly fruits and nuts)
-Culinary Arts (Italian)
How often do you travel to Verona?
Since its inception, there have only been two delegation trips to Verona, Italy in 2008 and 2012.
What are the costs?
Delegates must cover travel and food expenses to Verona while all lodging is covered by the Verona Sister City program. Delegations will host a handful of fundraising efforts to offset the costs of the trip. In the past, all tours and wine trips were hosted by the City of Verona.
If you are in the education sector and interested in creating a student exchange program between Verona and Fresno, please contact Sarah Moffat at Sarah@fullcirclebrewing.com.