The American Dream Faces the Pandemic At Gaspare’s Pizzeria

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Daniel Indelicato climbed down a ladder to answer the phone for his interview, sweating from rushing to finish the new patio at Gaspare’s Pizzeria. In late May 2020, several San Francisco Bay Area counties were given the green light by government officials for outdoor dining in June. Gaspare’s is hurrying to keep up with the new guidelines as America enters the next phase of the pandemic.

“We’re converting a section of our parking lot into outdoor dining, something that we have never done before,” said Indelicato. “So, we’re stringing patio lights and doing a lot of things.”

The tables are spaced six feet apart and the parking lines have been covered to ready the area for customers in San Rafael. The eatery has another location in San Francisco, which doesn’t have room for outdoor dining. Indelicato owns both locations of the pizzeria, a business that’s been in his family for decades. He is half Italian. His father, Gaspare, was born and raised in Sicily. Gaspare worked as a waiter on cruise ships before coming to America. In 1985, Gaspare opened an eatery in San Francisco called Gaspare’s Pizza House & Italian Restaurant.

Indelicato worked at the pizzeria as an assistant manager to his dad for five years before venturing out on his own. He opened Gaspare’s Pizzeria Ristorante & Bar in San Rafael in 2007, running the eatery for about a decade. At that point, his parents had spent more than 30 years at the original pizzeria, and were ready to retire. Indelicato took over the San Francisco Gaspare’s and began splitting his time between the two cities.

Gaspare’s food is homemade and authentic. Indelicato said his mom and dad played a large part in crafting the menu. “I think my parents have been a big influence because it’s their recipes and [we’ve been] sort of going off of that as the base,” said Indelicato. “You know, they’re great cooks at home. And I love dining with them.”

When asked what he likes the most on the menu, Indelicato said, “I can’t go wrong with pizza. I’d eat it seven days a week.” He likes his pie with pesto, pepperoni, feta, and garlic. When not eating pizza, Indelicato can be found enjoying the linguini with clams or the homemade gnocchi with pesto sauce.

The Indelicatos stick to their roots in food and in life. Every few years, the family travels to Italy to visit relatives. Just as no two Italian cities are exactly alike, the two Gaspare’s pizzerias differ in several key ways. The San Rafael restaurant is large, sophisticated, and modern. It has a full bar, TVs, and an open kitchen where guests can watch the pizza makers toss pies in the air like in the movies.

By contrast, the SF location is quaint and classic. “[The Gaspare’s in] San Francisco is small and cozy. It’s shoebox-shaped. We have 20 tables over there. You know, it has a vintage feel,” Indelicato said. “There’s juke boxes on the side of each booth, you know, and they’re actually playing old 45 records.”

Gaspare’s transitioned to pick-up and delivery during the pandemic. At first, it looked like things would blow over quickly. Indelicato thought he’d be able to reopen for sit-down dining in a few weeks, maybe a month. Then, months went by. Fortunately, both locations were granted PPP loans. But Indelicato recently sunk thousands of dollars into converting the San Rafael parking lot into a dining space, so he’s hoping it pays off with the return of outdoor dining.

Even when indoor dining is reinstated, Bay Area restaurants will most likely have to space the tables six feet apart inside, losing a significant portion of their capacity. While Indelicato supports the added safety measures, he said he’s more than ready for things to get back to normal.

“It is time for the government to put a little more trust into the community…and open up instead of keeping us closed,” he said. “It just has a horrible ripple effect, you know, in people’s lives and the economy, keeping us closed. I’m glad we’re taking the steps now to reopen.”

Indelicato is doing everything in his power to keep his restaurants afloat until the Bay Area returns to business as usual. As an Italian-American and Gaspare’s son, he’s making sure this family-owned pizzeria that embodies the American Dream can live on.

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