Zanti’s Deli Offers Italian Sandwiches in South St. Louis County

The Sappington deli opened earlier this month

Jun 26, 2023 at 11:18 am
click to enlarge Zanti's Deli opened two weeks ago in Sappington. - NINA GIRALDO
Zanti's Deli opened two weeks ago in Sappington.

Since the opening of Zanti’s Deli (181 Concord Plaza Shopping Center, Sappington), husband and wife Roberto and Annette Zanti have been busy serving Italian sandwiches in a counter-service setting. The 10 sandwiches include the Zanti’s Italiano — a customer favorite with mortadella, salame, ham and capocollo — and a classic meatball sub made with homemade meatballs.

Formerly the chef-owner of Roberto’s Trattoria, also in Sappington, Roberto continues to help out at his former fine-dining restaurant while also managing Zanti’s with his wife.

“After I sold [Roberto’s], I go, ‘Well, now what?’” Roberto says with a laugh. “This is my retirement.”

It was Annette, who worked at Roberto’s for more than a decade, who first had the idea of opening a deli. She saw it as a way to help Roberto’s children enter the restaurant business and allow the couple to better ease into retirement.

“I knew that being in the restaurant business kept [Roberto] from really having a life,” Annette says. “So I thought, ‘What could we do to work during the day without the nights, and help the kids go on with a business that wouldn’t put them in the position that Roberto has been in all his life?’ I knew we needed a deli.”

Roberto first came to the U.S. from his hometown of Taranto, Italy, as a 20-year-old member of Italy’s Merchant Marine. When the ship docked in Boston, he was excited to try the first Italian restaurant he saw. 

It was disappointing, to say the least.

“[In the U.S.], everybody’s in a hurry,” he says. “They pre-cook the pasta. In Italy, they take their time.”

Already having learned to cook from his mother (a.k.a. “the greatest cook that ever lived,” Roberto says), he knew he could handle a restaurant of his own.

click to enlarge You can supplement your sandwich order with a side of fries, pasta salad or chips (Old Vienna, Billy Goat or Lillie's). - NINA GIRALDO
You can supplement your sandwich order with a side of fries, pasta salad or chips (Old Vienna, Billy Goat or Lillie's).

Zanti’s Deli is unique, he says, because most of its items are imported from Emilia-Romagna, which he calls the capital of Italian food. 

For staffers, the place also has a uniquely warm vibe. John Lee, who makes salads for Roberto’s Trattoria, described working for the Zantis as being with family. When Lee’s mom became sick, for example, Roberto was insistent that Lee leave work to spend time with her.

“These are the best people I have ever worked for in my life,” Lee says. “They actually care. You don’t usually find a lot of people that actually care about what’s going on at home.”

Roberto began crafting Zanti’s menu months ago, but continues to tweak it every day as he continues to better understand what customers want. Roberto’s favorite offering is the Panzerotto, fried dough filled with mortadella, tomato, mozzarella and olives, crispy on the outside and melted on the inside.

“I’ve already heard it, [the customers] take a first bite and go, ‘Wow,’” Roberto says. “That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”

Subscribe to Riverfront Times newsletters.

Follow us: Apple NewsGoogle News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Or sign up for our RSS Feed