UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — From the classic kitchen décor to the family portraits that adorn the walls, a visit to Sparo’s Deli in Upper Montclair is designed to transport customers to grandma’s kitchen table.
In this case, the grandma is Andrea Chinnici — or as her grandchildren call her — “Mama Ree.”
Honing her cooking skills by watching her own grandmother, Mama Josephine, at work in their old kitchen in Brooklyn, Chinnici is keeping alive the authentic Italian family recipes that have been passed down from generations.
“You know, it was typical cooking that they now call ‘peasant food’ — a lot of broccoli rabe, a lot of pasta fagioli,” she explained. “So those are the kind of recipes I brought to Sparo’s.”
It was the idea of her son, Michael Sparacino, and his business partner, Adam Rose, to build the business around his mother’s cooking, which inspired a menu of dishes Sparacino grew up with.
“I said to him, ‘you like my food because you were used to it,'” she explained. “‘You know, this is how I cook and this is what you eat it, but I don’t know if we bring this out to the public that they’re going to like it the same way.’ Fortunately, they did.”
Just a year in, business at the deli — which specializes in original sandwich creations — is finally picking up. It happens after months of uncertainty and pivots that many businesses in the area have been facing.
And Mama Ree couldn’t be prouder.
“When you are at home and you’re cooking, you actually don’t know your value,” she said. “And you come here and it’s acknowledged and it makes you feel great. It makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something in your life.”
Sparo’s Deli & Catering
197B Bellevue Avenue
Montclair, NJ, 07043
Follow them on Instagram to learn more about the menu: @sparosdeli