Garwood, New Jersey – The best words to describe Al’s Deli is frank, surprising, homemade, and family. In a very average-looking mini-mall, Al Rimondi has used his hands and mind to create wonderful food since 1986. And for the past decade, he has had the pleasure of working side by side with his dedicated son, A.J. It is a proud papa’s labor of love. And the beneficiaries are the hungry people of Union County. Every day, the family Rimondi makes their focaccia bread, deli salads, and more. The word homemade here is not shorthand for made in a home somewhere – it was made here.
“What makes us different? It’s the freshness,” Al said. “Everything we sell here, we make here. We have homemade sausage, we cook our roast beef, turkeys, and hams, making our salads. I’ve been in this business for more than 40 years. And I have very high standards.”
So do his customers, who line up daily for sandwiches or fresh hot entrees for lunch —and prepared meals and soups. And entrees ready for dinner.
“I enjoy my work, and most of the customers are very nice,” he said. “I enjoy making food and having people like it. Do it right, and you get a positive response. Where else can you get such immediate gratification?”
The place is modest. It’s a deli with tables. But customers don’t come for the surroundings. They come for the food – to eat in, take out, or for a big catered party at home. So it’s surprising what comes out of the small kitchen.
“Al’s has the freshest meat and the best quality pieces,” a satisfied customer wrote on an Internet site. “We use them all the time, and I have to say, nothing tastes better. You should try them out, and you’ll love it!”
“Al’s Deli is amazingly great,” another regular customer wrote in an Internet review. “We ordered for Christmas, and everything was delicious. We had loads of raves. Their employees are so friendly and knowledgeable of their products. The owner is kind and generous as well. Their eggplant rollatini is excellent as well as their penne. We order from there one to two times a week.”
Added another customer in an Internet review: “The food is out of this world. (Their) the cheesesteak is a staple in Garwood.”
They also have a great attitude about customer service, their customers, and themselves.
Asked to describe themselves for an advertisement, Al didn’t hesitate. And his son agreed with a smile.
“MEAT HEADS. And proud of it,” the ad read. “We love beef, lamb, pork – even chicken and turkey. We love cold cuts – but only the best, of course. We like it grilled, broiled, sautéed, boiled, or fried. That’s why we’re butchers, caterers, and deli men. So go ahead. Call us Meat Heads.”
As Al and A.J. zip around the shop’s kitchen and behind the counter, preparing dinners, serving customers, they seem more like partners than father and son. But both relationships are special to Al.
“Not too many people get to work with their son,” Al said as A.J. sliced tomato for a sandwich. “We couldn’t spend a lot of time together when he was growing up, but now we can.”
Now A.J. is taking over the business with Al still working with his son.
“It is more than just a business or a 9 to 5 job,” A.J. explained. “It’s never 9-5. And it’s a way of life.
“I’m proud of what my dad built here, and I’m honored to carry on that tradition.”