Bill and Deb’s Downtown Deli

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Since Traverso’s closed last November, finding a decent prosciutto sandwich has been a challenging proposition.

Not that you can’t find one. You can. But without soul. Too much bread. Rubbery mozzarella. Watery tomatoes. Unholy basil.

Consider the resurrection of the Traverso’s Caprese Sandwich a spring miracle. Sliced-to-order Italian prosciutto with a salty, nutty flavor. Fresh whole milk mozzarella. Basil aioli with lettuce, tomatoes and torn basil on freshly baked bread($7.99).

Brought back to life by two former employees of the Italian deli, it’s one of several familiar sandwiches on the menu of Bill and Deb’s Downtown Deli.

Also on the menu: The Papa Rico ($5.99). Thin slices of salami with mayo, mustard, peppers, Swiss and tomatoes. Or The Hoagie with Mortadella, salami and ham with mozzarella, provolone and Italian dressing ($7.99). Sound familiar?

Let me say they may even be better than the original.

Behind the counter, sandwich vets Bill Thompson (10 years at Traverso’s) and Debbie Schulze (6 years) recently took over Mom & Pop’s Sandwich Shop (formerly known as Mr. Pickles). They’re eager to make some changes to the downtown deli that’s seen plenty of turnover — bringing in fresh ravioli, potato salad and Italian salami. But to keep everyone happy, they’re also sticking with some of former owners’ sandwiches along with a “Make Your Own” sandwich menu. And cookies still come complimentary with every order.

Though it will take decades to come even close to Traverso’s ground-into-the-floorboards history, it’s nice to know a little part of the legacy lives on.

Bill and Debbie’s Downtown Deli, 621 4th St., Santa Rosa, (707) 636-2200

Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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  1. I hear Claudio is working at Oliver’s, near Montecito…Lazzini’s has GREAT stuff, minimal but may have some of what you are wanting as far as italian groceries. If they don’t, the owners are very friendly and usually always willing to add what they can to their personal order (if the company provides what you need of course) I know they order from Pasta King, as Traverso’s did as well so I would definetely go over there and check it out!!

    Hope this helped! :)

  2. Great place on 4th to grab a sandwhic – nice seating outside. Good service

  3. I asked Lazzini’s on facebook about having some Italian groceries there, they said they did, in case anyone is wondering.

    I am a huge huge fan of Rustichella D’Abruzzo pastas, even their whole wheat line is amazzzzzing. I know that Oliver’s has some and has some tomato sauce in the bottle, but Traverso’s had CIRIO at about $2.99 instead of $3.99 for the organic brand.

    I’ll have to find out whether Lazzinis carries Cirio and the other cheaper brands or not. Will report back on it!

  4. Looking for a flashback to the old Traverso’s? Well not quite, but you can find two of their ‘Silver Foxes’ behind the counter here. You’ll find that they brought all the same taste and charm to this fine sandwich shop. Choose one of their menu items or ask them to design something custom. Either way, you will get the freshest ingredients on the very best bread in Sonoma county. (Don’t miss the whole wheat crunch..yummmm!) And.. if your lucky, you might even get to see the ‘red tornado’ behind the cash register.

  5. Mark, I was several blocks away at a parking lot that had 5 min. left on the ticket. and not enough time to go all the way back anyway. Wasn’t worth it. I would have, otherwise and I’m sure they would have corrected it. I absolutely agree that Deb’s response and customer service is the way to keep your restaurant/deli alive. And I may take her up on that next time I’m downtown. So, appreciate your reply Deb.
    I still don’t get the mustard thing though.

  6. i miss traverso’s immensely…o well..

  7. That’s wonderful, Good luck! Any chance you’ll be selling bottles of wine as well?

  8. If I ever needed a good excuse to stroll downtown, Bill and Debs prosciutto sandwich would be it!
    Bill is indeed a very funny guy, great sense of humor, and knows his stuff when it comes to making a killer sandwich! My hubby and I will be down soon to pick up sandwiches for our road trip.

  9. I am very excited Deb has opened a new place. Traverso’s was the only place I could order my octopus sandwich and Deb was one of only a couple of people that could or would make it! She always greeted her customers with a smile and great talk. While I know I have lost my special sandwich forever, I will certainly be doing business at the new deli. The sense of family and Old World Hospitality I am sure will carry on through Bill and Debs Deli.

  10. Lazzini’s is one of the best places in town for a geat deli sandwich. Their BBQ tri-tip sandwich is fantastic. This is a local family that has been in business for years (Ray’s Market) was a big part of my fond childhood memories. Later, Steve’O joined his father at the market and began making his delicious deli sandwiches. Besides sandwichs’ there are also daily selections for dinner, BBQ chicken, tri-tip, pork loin, and homemade soups and chili. It’s located on Bennett Valley Rd. Give it a try!

  11. Yum! Finally a good deli in downtown Santa Rosa. The key to every sandwich is a FRESH roll or bread. None of the other deli’s downtown offer this. Bill and Deb’s mentioned they order fresh bread everyday. This is key; please do not let that slide. My sandwich was great and I will be going back weekly as I work downtown.

  12. Speaking of Claudio from Traverso’s – where is he now? Can someone tell me about Lazzini’s (?) market? Do they have Italian groceries there? I really need Italian groceries. I don’t want to shop on line for them I want them in the flesh.

  13. I am so happy to hear Traverso’s will live on in a sense! I can’t wait to try your sandwiches! Will be by next week for sure!

  14. by the way, didn’t mean Ray’s closed, but “sold”.

  15. Wow I wondered what happened to Steve-O after Ray’s closed…They still have the name on the side of the building but I seemed a lil sketch….Glad to hear they got their own place! Thanks for letting us know. And yes, Steve-O’s was the first place I had a real deli sandwich as a kid.

  16. Keep the dutch crunch roll that was used for Mr. Pickles/Mom & Pop’s. I use to eat there at least once a week, but I am hearing there are too many changes!

  17. Makes a great sandwich and has an equally great sense of HUMOR!

  18. Deb – Will you have Speck that can be sliced and sold by the pound. We are in serious withdrawl since Traverso’s closed

  19. Have any of you tried Lazzini’s Market on Bennett Valley Road.
    They have great Italian sandwiches.
    Steve’o And Mark have been making awesome sandwiches for 20 years.

  20. Went there yesterday with my father-in-law and both of us a caprese sandwich!!! It was at least as good as Traversos!! Bill and Deb, I am thrilled you have opened this deli and pray it will stand the test of time!!!!

  21. OK MAX…….Your right I am not a computer person. But I can make a mean sandwich. How about you judge me on my sandwich making abilities and not my computer skills. I will even through in a free bag of chips and cookie. CAN’T WAIT TO MEET YOU.

  22. I researched my own question and learned the top reason that people type in ALL CAPS is because they have bad vision (so it’s easier for them to read their own writing) and they don’t know how to increase their font size or decrease their screen resolution. The second most common reason is that they don’t know how to type and it’s much easier and faster for them to type all in one case. ALL CAPS looks better to them than all lower case. So, basically both reasons are the same: The person barely knows how to use a computer. It’s OK Deb, as long as you know how to make a mean sandwich, you’re all right in my book.

  23. If it’s a combo of Mom and Pop’s and Traverso’s, it’s going to be good. Please keep the Hellacopter.

    Side note: Deb, what’s up with ALL CAPS? I can’t figure out why people do this. Do they accidentally hit the Caps Lock key and don’t notice until it’s too late? Do they not want to bother with capitalization and think it looks better than all lower case?

  24. See, THAT’S how you stay in business…Teresa, atleast let the folks try and remedy the situation. I bet if you had gone in there after you noticed the mishap in your car they would have made good on their mistake. New businesses have kinks and growing pains. Just Deb’s response makes me remember what a great place Traverso’s was. Sure the food was good but it was the CUSTOMER SERVICE that stood the test of time!



  26. By all accounts it still seems like we don’t have an italian deli in town…I still miss Traverso’s!

  27. I have to share my experience. A couple weeks ago, went by (on my way to the corner deli) and decided to try Bill and Deb’s. I don’t often buy myself a sandwich for lunch, but was really in the mood for a good BLT. I used the “made to order” slip (looked just like the old Traversos one). I SPECIFIED, light mayo, bacon, ‘crisp please’, sourdough, lettuce and tomato. That’s it. Really simple. It was “to-go”. Along with a diet Pepsi, that is luke warm, and they say its becasue their fridge doesn’t get cold enough. (?) $6.99 total. I leave a dollar tip in the jar, cause he gave me a sample taste of the shrimp salad, which tastes good but nothing special. I get in my car and open it to take a quick bite before taking off. Barely perceptible sourdough taste (sweet french maybe?) Bacon has raw, fatty edges. Lettuce, totally wilted and tomato slices are PAPER thin. But really, all that, I would have just thought, “not a great BLT, but eatible”. The kicker that ruined it for me? Bill, you put MUSTARD on my BLT! (and zero mayo). EWWWWWW, who does that? WTH? And I was so hungry.
    They were friendly in there though.
    Man, do I miss Traversos delightful sandwiches. :(

  28. great news, so happy to hear there is a new sandwich shop doentown, am excited to stop by- I too miss Traverso’s Deli

  29. I work two blocks away and had never been to Mr. Pickles – this, however, I’m excited to try over and over again!

  30. The real deal Caprese Prosciutto sandwich is by far the best sandwich in town. Great personal service with high quality meats and produce. I highly recommend this deli in downtown Santa Rosa.

  31. I have been there twice in the last 2 weeks. The first time, I had the prosciutto sandwich and the basil aioli is to die for! And the salami is great too! You should consider selling it sliced by the pound.

  32. Great, I will stop in soon! Thanks for sharing! I used to always stop for the Procsiutto Sandwich and a smile from Claudio~!

  33. This is great news. I will try it tomorrow.
    Regarding Cannaveti’s, three days ago I had their cornbeef sandwich and I was not impressed, but I’ll try again in a few weeks.

  34. Very excited about this. What about the other people that were going to work at Cannaveri’s? Any news? We *really* need an Italian deli here, badly.

  35. VERY good news…I know I’ll give them business and spread the word!

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