Join Riverfront Times Press Club. Because No News is Bad News.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chef's Choice: Vince Valenza, Blues City Deli

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge Blues City Deli owner Vince Valenza - ROBIN WHEELER
  • Robin Wheeler
  • Blues City Deli owner Vince Valenza
Vince Valenza has traveled a long journey from his childhood in downtown St. Louis' Sicilian neighborhood to celebrating five years of owning Blues City Deli in Benton Park. Through it all, he's had his family, good food and a lot of soulful music to keep him going.

As the youngest child in his family, he learned about cooking from his mother's Italian kitchen and his father's barbecue pit while getting a musical education from his older sisters.

click to enlarge ROBIN WHEELER
  • Robin Wheeler
"My sisters listened to race records, as they called them back in those days. Once in a while they'd find a soulful-type, bluesy record. She'd put it on the record player, and I'd like it, as a kid. I liked that soul. R&B, then Stax out of Memphis. I'm more of a Stax guy than a Motown guy. They had more of an edge. The Wilson Picketts and Sam and Daves -- this is different. They're pouring their souls out, and they hit you real hard. That's the stuff that got me going. Then, later on, I started learning about the blues. I was into my 30s when I really started digging in and getting to know about it. The Stax stuff bridged the gap into Muddy Waters."

As an adult, Valenza worked a variety of jobs to pay the bills. He was a laborer and a salesman. In the mid-1980s, his friend Joe Alagna hired him at Fratelli's, where he spent a few years getting his restaurant education while working other jobs, playing drums in local blues bands and creating menus for the Italian sandwich and pasta shop he dreamed of opening.

click to enlarge ROBIN WHEELER
  • Robin Wheeler
"We were always big on sandwiches at our house. It was sort of a Saturday staple. We had Genoa salami, Italian cheese, Italian bread. Every Saturday we'd sit around the table. That was our tradition. So I always had a love for the sandwiches."

Tags: , ,

Riverfront Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of St. Louis and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep St. Louis' true free press free.

More by Robin Wheeler

Read the Digital Print Issue

June 3, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2020 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation