The tiny town of Simbario, Italy is located in the central part of the narrow ‘boot’ of southern Italy where the mountain ranges of the Calabria Region stretch and the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea ripple against the shores.
In 1966 Salvatore and Concetta Bertucci packed their belongings and made their way from Simbario to Toronto. Like so many other immigrants at that time, they had hopes and dreams of a new life, a rebirth, in North America. Once settled in Toronto, the Bertuccis opened a small grocery store in heart of Little Italy. The original name of this store was La Rinacente meaning ‘rebirth’ and those humble beginnings became the first home of the famous California Sandwiches.
Fortunately a passion for cooking followed the family to Toronto and when the grocery store was busy, someone had to feed the hungry customers. Concetta made her traditional southern Italian style sauce. She fried up some veal and put it together on a bun to make a sandwich. Concetta’s mother Christina Papa, helped with the traditional Italian cooking and Salvatore was the butcher who cut the meat fresh every day. Word spread around town of the tasty sandwiches cooked up by the Papa Bertucci family.
In 1966 there was a small fire in La Rinacente. The Toronto Fire Department and the police arrived to fight the blaze and Concetta could not bear to see the hungry firefighters and policemen standing around so she cooked up her delicious sandwiches and received great praise.
While the fire was extinguished, the hot Italian sandwich business burned on. Over the years the Papa Bertucci family slowly built the business and included the whole family along the way. Although California Sandwiches has grown to 10 locations, the first California Sandwiches at the Claremont location is still there, tucked awat in Toronto’s Little Italy. As always, the family takes pride in serving the best possible products and giving great value to customers.
Visit Sam Bertucci and the family at California Sandwiches in Burlington at 3443 Fairview Street or visit them online at www.californiasandwiches.ca/.