To my fellow Trojans enduring the strangest of summers on campus right now, I am right there with you. USC is eerily empty, Village restaurants are closed, you’re sick of Trader Joe’s prepared foods (if that’s even possible), and all your roommates are pacing around the apartment working from home. Summer 2020 is a bit bleak, but I have something that may brighten your afternoon. 

Picture this: a sprawling picnic blanket on the lawn near Doheny. The sun is shining, and the ambient noise of the fountain is trickling in the background. You unwrap a warm ciabatta bun. Upon first bite, the thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma imported from Italy melts in your mouth alongside a perfectly marinated eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh stracciatella (boujee whipped cheese), and roasted red peppers drizzled with a light red wine vinaigrette. DAY = MADE.

Introducing Ggiata: Los Angeles’ newest, and dare I say, best, Italian deli located less than 2 miles away from USC. I had the privilege of sitting down with the masterminds behind the “The Masterpiece” (the sandwich described above) to get the inside scoop.

The founders of Ggiata arrive at our interview enthused to discuss their grand opening one week prior. In the midst of a global pandemic, these young entrepreneurs (ages 24-28) seem to be in high spirits and for good reason. Their delicious sandwiches have been selling out almost everyday. While countless restaurants have been forced to close their doors as a result of COVID-19, these trying times have proven to be the perfect catalyst for Ggiata’s success thanks to the ingenious efforts of its founders. 

Mara Lorin

Our story begins with childhood friends, Max, Noah, Jack W, and Jack B, who grew up in Montclair, New Jersey; a town with numerous authentic delis born out of the multi-generational Italian families that settled there. Neighborhood delis were the essential meeting places; where any visit would likely garner a run-in with Noah’s sister, Antonia or Max’s mom, Lori (two important names on Ggiata’s menu).  According to the friends, “it was the place to debrief the night before, and rally for the day ahead.”

Needless to say, deli is in their DNA. Upon moving to Los Angeles, they were in search of one that would fill the void of their hometown. However, after a tremendously unsatisfying deli crawl across the entire city, they realized Montclair delis really did hit differently. And thus the inspiration for Ggiata was born.

While the friends had spent years conceptualizing the Los Angeles deli, it was not until the coronavirus hit that they decided to go all-in. Having gotten laid off from other jobs and work as a whole coming to a near halt, there was no better time than the present to take the leap of faith.

With a whole lot of passion and very little experience, the founders opened a CloudKitchen: a shared kitchen space meant for delivery-only restaurants. In doing so, they could focus on developing the product and servicing a large portion of the city without paying restaurant rents or suffering from COVID-induced restrictions.

After securing the CloudKitchen came finding the “talent,” which, thanks to Noah’s few months working at a westside restaurant, wasn’t too difficult. The kitchen’s sous chef, Rodolphe Beuve, was passionate enough about their concept - and persuaded by Noah’s smooth-talking - to join the team.

The team then consulted beloved deli-owners from back home to curate a Montclair-inspired menu fitted for Los Angeles. Noah, as kitchen manager, took to sourcing the finest and freshest ingredients (ranging from Parma, Italy to Santa Monica) to ensure that their product was truly exceptional. With the place, people, and produce secured, Ggiata was ready to serve!

But how does a restaurant startup succeed in these trying times? The answer lies within the rest of Ggiata’s digitally-savvy team members. Jack B’s experience in finance gave way to the construction of Ggiata’s business plan, and his experience in tech consulting made functioning as a strictly online restaurant totally feasible. Jack W’s graphic design skills, alongside Max’s creative direction, helped establish a clear identity for Ggiata, not only through the website and Instagram, but in the consumer experience as well. When your sandwiches are delivered, you are immediately transported to the east-coast, Italian nostalgia of Ggiata’s world with their classic pale yellow logo, a handwritten note, and an assortment of black and white images featuring New York City from the 1980’s. Of course, a brand nowadays is incomplete without its merchandise, which thanks to Max’s experience designing his own clothing line, is absolutely killer. The compilation of each members’ creativity and skill set is what makes Ggiata so special and ultimately, so successful.

Mara Lorin

When thinking about traditional restaurants, the physical establishment and the food are often the first things that come to mind; thus ownership would naturally fall to the restaurateur and/or the chef. Ggiata, on the other hand, has given all five founders - Rodolphe, Noah, Max, Jack B and Jack W - equal equity right out of the gates. As they like to describe it, Ggiata is a “five-headed beast.” The chef having the same stake as the kitchen manager, graphic designer, chief of finance and marketing director is a new concept when it comes to restaurants. However, this decision is what has allowed Ggiata to thrive.

Firstly, equity among all five founders positions the brand as equal parts digital and physical. Every aspect of its foundation stems from a series of deliberate decisions that focus on the intangibles alongside the tangibles. The selection of the best quality bread is given as much thought as the selection of the font and color used for the logo. Without a physical location nor an existing customer base, it was imperative that Ggiata established a brand enticing enough to gain traction from online platforms alone. Fortunately, the technologically savvy and multi-faceted nature of the brand - made possible by the efforts of ALL five founders - did just that.

Secondly, equal equity helps to preserve the lifelong friendships that truly make Ggiata what it is. Mixing personal with professional isn’t always easy, but the decision for equal equity eases power dynamics and ensures equal accountability. The founders prioritizing their relationship as friends first and foremost is indicative of the type of entrepreneurs that they are. The type to greet every staff member by name while showing me around the CloudKitchen. The type to have established a partnership with MLK Hospital donating meals to health workers within the first two weeks of opening. The type to call their house a half bed and breakfast because of all the family and friends they’re constantly hosting. The type to be blasting music while they cook and send me off with brownies like a good Jewish mother. The type of entrepreneurs you can feel good supporting. 

Mara Lorin

Ggiata Vibe Check

3 words to describe Ggiata: community, classic, quality

3 songs on repeat in Ggiata: “Dior” by Pop Smoke, “Feelin’ It” by JAY-Z & “In Your Feelings” by Dougie F

3 customers you’d love to find at Ggiata: Max’s dad, Action Bronson & Michelle Obama

3 Images you’d find on Ggiata’s mood board: Satriale’s Pork Store from the Sopranos, a Sicilian grandma making fresh pasta, old men sitting in the streets 

Mara Lorin

Item at the top of the secret menu: The Lori - seeded bread, Calabrian aioli, burrata, eggplant cutlet, marinated eggplant, tomato confit, fresh tomato, olive oil, arugula, red wine vinaigrette, balsamic drizzle

Advice to students: TAKE RISKS and do the sh*t you actually want to be doing! Especially in your early 20’s!

Find out more information and how to order via their website.