New York Deli, Diner, and Bakery takes pride in being called the ‘Katz’s Delicatessen of Florida.’
Story: Theresa Campbell // Photos: Nicole Hamel
Fruitland Park has been home for Brooklyn, New York, native Vito Serrone and his family for the past seven years. They came to Florida to escape New York’s cold winters, yet Vito delights in bringing a slice of the Big Apple to Lake County.
He owns New York Deli, Diner, and Bakery, 3325 U.S. Highway 441, Fruitland Park, in the same shopping plaza as Badcock Furniture and Appliance Direct. He opened the deli in 2018 in the location of the former Pete’s Diner, and on two recent visits, Vito’s place was bustling with breakfast and lunch crowds. It is open from 7am-2:30pm daily except Sunday.
“I had a customer come in a few weeks ago and he said we are the Katz’s Delicatessen in Florida,” Vito says, beaming. “Katz is a world-known deli in Manhattan, so I thought that was pretty nice. It’s the ultimate compliment.”
Large, prized black-and-white photos depicting special New York moments and people hang on the diner walls.
Bagels in several varieties sell fast at the diner, along with deli sandwiches, including the New York Club of corned beef and pastrami; Big Jimmy, featuring ham, salami, and pepperoni; and, of course, the owner’s favorite, The Vito, filled with baked ham, salami, turkey, bologna, Swiss or provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, oil, and vinegar.
“It’s a few inches high, sometimes four inches tall,” Vito says. “Obviously, our signs speak for themselves, which read, ‘We don’t make sandwiches, we build them.’”
Sandwiches are built from Boar’s Head meats. “We are the only independent Boar’s Head dealer in the county, outside of Publix,” Vito adds.
New York Deli, Diner, and Bakery sees several daily customers, including Gary Smock, of Lady Lake, who often orders eggs and grits for breakfast or the open-face beef sandwich at lunch.
“Vito is a real nice guy, and he calls me ‘Norm,’” says a grinning Gary, who doesn’t mind at all being compared to the regular bar patron Norm from the TV show “Cheers.”
Cindy Ober is even a more familiar face as the baker and manager of the business.
“She puts out a spread that no one else does,” Vito says. “Everything that she makes, people are just loving it. We specialize in all the most common Italian, New York-style pastries, cookies, and I just love all of it.”
Vito jokes that it’s a real challenge to not be tempted by his baker’s tasty sweet treats, including the regular and mini-size cannoli that he finds irresistible.
“I have been baking for 37 years,” Cindy says. “I start baking at 4 o’clock in the morning, and my Napoleons are our number one seller, along with my cream pies and any of the gourmet cheesecakes. Actually, any and everything I make is a hit, especially anything that is Italian. People love Italian things here.”
Cindy also hears raves over her wedding cakes.
“I do it all,” she adds. “Wedding cakes, birthday cakes, you name it, I do anything they want, and I really enjoy baking.”
Vito, Cindy, and the servers also enjoy interacting with diners like they’re family.
During one recent lunch visit, Cindy had an extra-large pancake that she was taking around to the different tables to see if anyone wanted it. “We have a winner,” she exclaims, giving the pancake to a male diner.
“People love the atmosphere here, and we try to provide a nice, relaxing place,” Vito says. “We want people to get out of the hustle and bustle of their work to come to a place where we offer good food and excellent service.”
History of New York delis
- The neighborhood deli has long been hailed as a welcoming place to grab a cup of coffee or order a pastrami on rye.
- The first delicatessens appeared in the United States in the mid-1800s in New York City.
- Katz’s Delicatessen opened in 1888 on Ludlow Street in New York and is noted for serving stacked sandwiches.