Some things on the Peninsula have changed a lot since 1987, but Leonardo’s cafe and deli in Millbrae is not among them.
The Broadway mainstay features the same decor, much of the original menu — and even attracts many of the same customers as 35 years ago. And while it’s no longer Leonardo Barranti behind the counter, his son, Gary Barranti, said he intends to keep it that way.
“We’ve done little things over the years, but this is pretty much what it looked like when we opened up,” Gary Barranti said, who took over for his late father decades ago. “I have no intentions of changing anything.”
The deli serves sandwiches, soup and salad and also offers breakfast items. The interior is what one would expect for an Italian throwback establishment — red checkered tablecloths, tile floors and black and white photos and memorabilia on walls painted in the colors of the Italian flag.
Gary Barranti said he arrives at 5:30 every morning to begin preparing the roasted meat, meatballs, meatloaf, pulled pork, soup and salad, which are displayed behind a glass counter. Even the tuna salad is made from scratch with fresh albacore, he said, and the cold cuts still come from Molinari Salami in San Francisco.
“All the recipes I was taught by my family,” he said. “I’m the youngest of all my siblings, so it was my dad and my sisters, my grandfather.”
As a third generation Italian American, he said the deli’s always been a family affair, run with the help of his sisters, cousins, nephews and the like — many of whom live in Millbrae to this day.
He recalled having recently graduated high school when his father opened the deli. At the time he had no intentions of one day running things, but his father slowly passed along the reins ahead of retiring entirely, he said. Now his son, Vincent Barranti, a high school junior, helps out when he’s not in school.
Vincent Barranti, who’s studying theater, said he enjoys working at the deli but doesn’t plan to take over, either.
The deli’s signature sub, the Clipper — roasted turkey, ham, bacon, avocado and all the toppings and a garlic sauce — is named for Joe DiMaggio, who played for the New York Yankees in the 1940s.
DiMaggio was once a regular customer, Gary Barranti said. “My father and my grandfather loved him, and it just happened he used to come in quite a bit,” he said.
Several photos on the walls pay tribute to the hall of famer, who was once married to Marilyn Monroe.
Among the deli’s current regulars, Ed Turdici said he visits almost every day. He’s one of several that attended high school in the 1940s in San Francisco and now meet at the cafe to reminisce, he said.
“We have lunch here every Thursday, old timers, you have to be over 80 to be here,” the 93-year-old said. “We know Gary, and it’s like home. The food is good, and where else can you get a cup of coffee for $2?”
The deli is located at 540 Broadway, and is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Catering is also available.
(650) 344-5200, ext. 105