Regina’s Italian star deli family celebrates the soft opening of the new building
Nonnos, Nonnas, Zias and Zios by Regina can be happy.
The Queen City now has an Italian grocery store large enough to meet demand and possibly create even more.
In the past, it wasn’t uncommon to pop into Italian Star on a weekday lunchtime and watch the line for the store’s popular Italian sandwiches — made with shredded feta, sliced banana peppers and Gina’s spicy “La Bomba” spread — stretch the measure stretched way to the front door.
But not anymore.
After over three years of planning, financing and construction during a pandemic, Italian Star has officially moved into a much larger new building next door at 1631 Victoria Avenue.
“You know, it’s epic. The old place was tired. It told us we have to go. So, it’s a good transition. I’m happy with what we did. We’re sad about it [old] to build over there, but very, very grateful for all the space,” said owner Carlo Giambattista.
From burrata to pancetta to olive oil, this is the real deal, the new store has both old favorites and room to grow into its next phase.
The Italian Star Deli has been an integral part of the community since 1966. It was opened at 1611 Victoria Avenue by Italian immigrants Frank and Gina Giambattista.
For 30 years, Carlo Giambattista worked side by side with his now 92-year-old mother Gina in the small delicatessen. Now he said he feels the new store, still on Victoria Avenue, is for “the new generation” as well as cherished regulars.
WATCH| Take a look at Italian Star Deli’s larger, brighter room:
Italian Star Deli now has a deli department three times the size of the old one. And there’s a café for those in the mood for a real Italian cappuccino or espresso. The shop now employs a chef, and hot ready meals – like veal parmigiana – are prepared every day.
The store had its soft opening this week and while some shelves are still empty, they will soon be filled with delicious imported Mediterranean ingredients.
A family affair
On Thursday, the matriarch herself, Nonna Gina, visited the new store and hugged all of the employees.
“My mom is pretty excited. I wish she was about 82. She was still here making lasagna,” Carlo said with a big smile on his face.
With visible pride, he announced his mother’s presence to employees and customers as she walked through the deli.
“She is the reason we are here. We’re here because of this lady. I think she’s very proud of what’s going on and [with] Your grandchildren are here. The next generation.”
This next generation takes the form of Carlo’s children, Marina and Gino, who inherited their father’s good humor and appreciation for every customer who walks through the door.
Giambattista said it is very special to have his children and wife Heather working with him.
“It’s incredible. We eat together. We play together. We work together. We see each other every day. We’re very, very happy,” said Giambattista.
“I get it because someone’s kids move away and they’re like, ‘Oh, my kids are gone.’ I don’t know how you can be separated from your children. We are very thankful. We do things together. We solve problems together and we enjoy each other very much.”
Italian culture in Regina
Giambattisa said the larger space has allowed his family to add a coffee bar and introduce more imported Italian products, which are especially appreciated by foodies and Italian cooking lovers out there.
He said he believes the Italian community will welcome the presence of a larger Italian market.
“I think our community is very strong and supportive. But our Italian base here isn’t as prosperous as you’ll see in the BC market and whatnot,” Giambattista said, referring to the popular West Coast Italian supermarket Bosa Foods, which is a staple for the large Italian population in the Vancouver and Greater Vancouver area.
“But I think the variety of things that we have here is something that the Italian community will definitely see. They’re the ones who come here to get it [ingredients] for a good carbonara… So now we can present more of that.”
But Giambattista said everyone in Regina, from Italians to non-Italians, will enjoy the new-and-improved Italian Star Deli. Soon the shop will offer fresh pasta as well as several antipasti and olives.
“It’s for people who just like to eat good food.”