RED BANK – Andrew Citarella knew his father introduced the marinated meats to their family deli Citarella’s Market, but he wasn’t quite sure who came up with the recipe for the potato or macaroni salads.
“My grandmother’s recipes, maybe even my great-grandmother,” Citarella tried to remember. “I’m not even sure if she started it.”
After 121 years and down four generations, the deli, located at the intersection of Prospect Avenue and McLaren Street, will close on Saturday, July 9. According to its now defunct website, the first store was located on Bridge Avenue. It moved to Sea Bright in the mid-1950s before arriving at its current location back in Red Bank in 1979.
Fair Haven resident Katherine Raftery remembers attending Red Bank Catholic High School as a teenager and grabbing sandwiches at Citarella’s with friends.
Raftery said her family would return nearly every Saturday in the summer after a day at the Shore.
She praised the fresh mozzarella and marinated hanger steaks. She said her family de ella used to buy their Easter hams at Citarella’s Market.
After getting married, she returned with her husband.
“Ralph (Citarella) used to take the time to teach us how to literally make everything on the grill and now we’re avid grillers,” Raftery said. “We understand it’s the next chapter for them, but it’s sad to see them go.”
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Citarella said he has been running the store for the last 15 months, but his brother Ralph Citarella is the current owner.
Citarella said his brother and sister-in-law Jeanne Citarella, who have worked at the deli for over 40 years, are retiring and “there’s no more Citarella sons to take over the traditions so it is time.”
Red Bank resident Andre Bondi said he has known Ralph Citarella for 25 years.
He remembers walking into the deli after superstorm Sandy and the power was out.
“Ralph told me that they had given all the meat to a firehouse because they couldn’t sell it,” Bondi said. “It was still frozen so it hadn’t gone bad or anything, but they had power in the firehouse and he knew that they were working hard so he gave them the meat.”
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Citarella said the family business started with his great-grandfather Andrew Citarella and was handed down to his grandfather Ralph Citarella before being given to his father Andrew Citarella and then his brother Ralph Citarella. And now another Andrew Citarella is running the deli.
“It went Andrew, Ralph, Andrew, Ralph, Andrew,” Citarella said.
He said his family has also seen generations of customers come in.
“We saw (customers) when they were little kids and they grew up and we saw their kids grow up and their kids grow up. So, it’s a wonderful thing,” he said.
And now customers are coming back one last time to say goodbye.
“We just had a guy here, 45 years old, longtime customer, who’s been coming here since he was a kid,” Citarella said. “(He) came in and I saw tears in his eyes from him. He was crying, hugging my sister-in-law. It’s an emotional thing for a lot of people.”
He said “It’s a very sad thing.”
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He said the business that was going to replace Citarella’s Market will be an Italian family owned and operated business.
Property records with the Monmouth County Clerk’s office show that Michael Stavola bought the deli Friday, June 10.
“We don’t know exactly what they’re doing yet,” Citarella said. “But they will be doing their own thing.”
Olivia Liu is a reporter covering transportation, Red Bank and western Monmouth County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.