We were thrilled when the folks at Ratto's called on us to help spread the word about their 120th anniversary party on December 2. If you know Oakland, California, you know the city has gone through incredible transformations over the past 12 decades—all the while with Ratto's serving fresh food and imported goods to Bay Area chefs and residents. Bravo!
When you mention Old Oakland, many people think of fashionable clothing stores and trendy retailers, cool restaurants and chic coffee shops in historic buildings. All of this is true, and there is one business in particular that has been around so long it is one of the hippest joints in town.
G.B. Ratto & Co., on Victorian Row at 821 Washington Street, is Oakland’s landmark deli, continuously owned and operated by the Ratto family since 1897. Known simply as Ratto’s, it was styled by The New York Times as “the most important food emporium on the West Coast,” providing home chefs from every part of the globe with hard-to-find ingredients for their cuisines.
“When I would come to the store as a child and young adult in the ‘60s and ‘70s it was always packed with people from all over the world,” said 4th generation owner Elena Durante. “At any given time on any given day, you could walk in and hear 8-10 different languages being spoken. It was truly an exciting place.”
Durante’s mother, Dorotea, a Juliard-trained opera singer, was inspired to create a local venue for operatic performance. “Pasta Opera” debuted in 1987 and every Friday patrons enjoyed a pasta dinner while being entertained by local opera singers, including Dorotea, performing arias and duets with piano accompaniment.
Today, Ratto’s is a beloved deli and market with a wonderful selection of gourmet groceries, cheeses, charcuterie, and bulk spices, and is a community favorite for lunch, serving delicious deli sandwiches, soups and salads. Every Saturday afternoon, Ratto’s has live jazz, creating the perfect setting for shopping and enjoying a delicious deli lunch.
“Customers often tell me they've been coming to Ratto's for years or that they used to come in with their parents and grandparents,” Durante said. “It feels good to know we have provided generations of families with good food and happy memories. I am proud to continue the traditions that my great-grandfather started more than a century ago.”
Next time you're in Old Oakland, stop by Ratto's for great sandwiches and soups, unique market foods and live music. You'll see why it's all the rage.