Welcome to Partner Provisions, where we introduce you to the incredible people and stories behind the restaurants, food trucks and caterers helping Zerocater feed the workforce – breakfast, lunch, dinner and every meal in between.
- Name: Vesna Kahriman
- Company: Americano Deli
- City: San Mateo & Livermore
- Website: Americano Deli and Grill
- Instagram Handle: @americanolive and @americanodg1
What is Americano Deli?
Americano Deli is a family dream come to fruition. We’ve brought Montenegro’s rich and vibrant culinary tradition and way of life to the Bay Area, bringing together American cuisine and traditional European flavors in signature sandwiches, cheesesteaks, burgers, and salads.
Montenegro was a quintessential Mediterranean coastal town best known for its 16th-century Spanish-style architecture and people who valued family and friendship above all else. The town possessed a rich and vibrant culinary tradition and a common love for cooking, eating and entertaining. Where recipes were passed down from generation to generation and guarded like priceless family treasure. In 1992, civil war spilled over Montenegro’s border, forcing my family to flee the country and leave behind a wonderful way of life. War is destructive, it does not differentiate between people and things, it simply leaves a path of destruction. Once the destruction stops, reconstruction begins but while buildings may be rebuilt, that beautiful way of life cannot. Instead, we carried our culture, traditions, cuisine, and that way of life in our hearts and minds. We could only hope to one day experience that “old way of life” again.
That day came on September 30, 2011, the day we opened Americano Deli & Grill in San Mateo, CA. We recreated the Montenegro way of life the best we could at Americano Deli & Grill, not only for our enjoyment but so that others might experience our rich and vibrant culinary tradition and share in our love for cooking, eating, and entertaining.
Today we have two locations, Americano Deli & Grill in San Mateo and Americano in Livermore, where we serve our signature sandwiches, Philly cheesesteaks, burgers, and salad. Our Livermore location offers a more expansive dinner menu.
What’s your dream for Americano Deli? Where do you envision your company in five years?
As mentioned, Americano is a family dream come to fruition, and we could not be more grateful for that. We are speechless at the outpouring of support the entire Bay Area community has shown for Americano – the restaurant, the concept and cuisine, and our people. We are so grateful for the opportunity to share our culture, traditions, cuisine, and way of life. Consequently, we dream of expanding the Americano brand and experience throughout the Bay Area and greater California. It may seem ambitious to some, but we nevertheless strive to share our way of life, the “Americano experience,” with every person in our great state. This is our five-year plan. We want Americano to be a household name; for people to smile when they hear the name. We owe this to ourselves, our homeland, and our loyal patrons, present, and future.
Tell us about one of your signature dishes? Where did the idea come from? What makes it so great?
Our signature dish is not a dish but what Americano is best known for, what we put in our dishes, Godfather Sauce. Without revealing the secret, Godfather Sauce is an herbed garlic spread. I have yet to try anything remotely similar to Godfather Sauce, and genuinely believe it is what separates Americano from every other restaurant.
Godfather Sauce is one of those Montenegrin recipes, passed down from generation to generation and guarded like priceless family treasures. What you see (and taste) at our restaurants is my twist on the recipe. I spent well over a year tinkering with the recipe, making countless batches of sauces, until I finally created the sauce that started it all. I do not know how old the recipe is, but I do know it spans generations. As cliché as it may sound, I wholeheartedly believe it is my love for cooking, perfectionist mentality, and years and years of perfecting the recipes that make Godfather Sauce stand out as extraordinary. We also have a tangy, spicy spread called MOB Sauce that’s pretty spectacular.
What was the very first menu item for Americano Deli?
Americano’s very first menu item was the Skinny Chick sandwich with chicken breast, sautéed mushrooms, provolone cheese, and avocado piled high on a toasted roll with Godfather Sauce.
What’s your favorite thing about bringing Americano Deli to offices?
I understand first-hand what it is like to work long hours in an office, having to take a working lunch, and limiting my lunch options to whatever is quick and easy. Zerocater afforded my family and me the opportunity to take the “Americano experience” on the road to those who do not have the chance to come to us.
What is one thing not many know about Americano Deli?
Like Facebook, WordPress, and Napster, the original twenty-three sandwiches on our lunch menu were thought up in a dorm room by my son, Benjamin Kahriman.
What is your biggest challenge as a restaurateur?
There is no shortage of challenges in the restaurant industry, but the biggest challenge is staying on top of the fluid nature of the restaurant industry. Fashion and food are trend-driven; what was popular a year ago, is often not a year later. This is especially true today with the meteoric rise of Instagram, Pinterest, and social media influencers. What is trending online, will soon be trending at restaurants. Restaurateurs who dare to ignore today’s culinary trends, underestimate the power of social media, and remain stagnant in an incredibly fluid industry will find themselves without a tomorrow. It is that powerful. I have been involved in the restaurant industry for decades. The general consensus among our industry is that a successful restaurant: 1) Delivers high-quality, great-tasting food and 2) Provides efficient, friendly service. That is it, we operated under the notion that food and service comprise at least 80% of the decision-making process and determine success. Today, we find food in a neck-to-neck battle with the social media machine. Instead of picking sides, I’m hedging my bet. I’ve acknowledged times are changing and social media and marketing have earned a seat at the table, and I will not be the one to refuse them service. Since I’m not the most tech-savvy and prefer to focus on food, I’ve entrusted qualified professionals who understand social media marketing, to the degree I know food, to run those efforts.
What piece of advice would you offer to a new restauranteur or someone starting out in the food business?
Love what you do. You must be confident in your feelings; you must love what you do with every last bone in your body. Second, you cannot go it alone. If you have a cooking background, but little business experience, find a partner who does! Busy yourself with the aspect of the business in which you excel, and surround yourself with people who have expertise in the skills you don’t have – marketing, design, finance, etc. Some shy away because of cost, to which I say, you already bet on yourself (big time) when you decided to open a restaurant, make sure you set your business up for success. Long story short, find a restaurant consulting firm, you’ll thank me later.
Tell us about a time where Americano Deli played a role in bringing people together or helped to foster community.
Most of our employees are Latin. We share similar tales of immigration, fleeing persecution and injustice for a better life. Our stories have helped to create a bond between us, a support system outside of our friends and families. Although our journeys started in different places, our paths merged and united us at Americano. Today, my family and our employees’ families share holidays dinners, attend quinceañeras, and play roles in each other’s lives, inside and outside of Americano.
How has office catering helped your business grow? What do you like most about partnering with Zerocater?
Office catering expanded Americano’s reach well beyond our first brick and mortar location in San Mateo. Zerocater helped spread the Americano brand throughout the entire Bay Area. Those who work in San Francisco, often commute from cities around the Bay Area. If they’re able to try Americano with Zerocater at their office, they tell their friends and family about our food, and sure enough the walk-in rate increases at our brick-and-mortar location. So, not only does office catering increase revenue, it is a powerful source of marketing and growth. In large part due to our partnership with Zerocater, my family and I opened our second restaurant in Livermore. We are forever grateful for this.
Order from Americano Deli & Grill to your office!