Family-owned deli and store offers unique imports

Erika Bradley

Located at 59th Street and Folsom Boulevard, Corti Brothers Gourmet Italian Grocery has provided Sacramento with unique, quality, imported goods that cannot be found anywhere else in the area.


Opened by brothers Frank and Gino Corti in 1947 with the goal to provide European foods to the increasingly diverse community, Corti Brothers remains as one of the few neighborhood grocery stores still around from that period.


It is widely known for its deli with an extensive selection of bacon and hams, bologna, cheeses, cold cuts, sausages, salami, liverwurst, pates, chicken and turkey.


Although both Corti brothers have passed, current store director Rick Mindermann said he recalls what Frank Corti always said.


“You might find some delis in Sacramento, [but] Corti Brothers has a delicatessen,” Mindermann said.


The grocery store provided gourmet goods that people of eastern and western European descent could not find in the typical grocery store due to the lack of culturally diverse foods in the ’40s.


“Our forte was being shopkeepers, knowing food and wine and knowing our customers,” Mindermann said.


Today, employees continue the tradition by helping customers pair food with wine, advising on  ingredients to substitute for others and how to prepare real deli Italian sandwiches.


In the pasta aisle sits the rare Farfalline, or bow tie pasta noodles with colorful stripes on them. Mindermann said it was more of a decorative addition than flavorful, and the stripes are dyes of other foods.


“Some of them hold their color, some of them don’t. It’s more of an art style,” Mindermann said. “Green is typically spinach, the reddish color is usually beat, the orange is carrots and the black is either squid ink or cuttlefish ink.”


Current owner Darrell Corti, Franks Corti’s son, has traveled across the country in search for different foods and wines for the store. He has introduced products from Europe and Asia to the U.S. for the first time.


Darrell Corti has also introduced many imports such as real balsamic vinegar, fresh white truffles and real Italian parmesan cheese.


Not all imports are popular enough to stay on Corti Brothers’ shelves, but there are some that have remained popular for decades.


“In 1980, we imported an oil from Spain called serrano, which became  [so] popular that we started selling them to all the famous restaurants in Berkeley,” Darrell Corti said.


Mindermann has not only worked for with the Corti family for decades, he has also joined Darrell Corti on some of his travels.


“[Darrell’s] travels see him seeking out just about anything you can imagine in food and wine, and when he finds something that is a good fit for Corti Brothers, he will import it, develop it and offer it in our market,” Mindermann said.


Darrell Corti is internationally known and has a newsletter in its 38th year of publication, which features numerous foods and wines. The fall 2013 newsletter focused on the traditional method of red wine vinegar and explains what the product can bring to a meal.


“[Darrell is] the director of the most prestigious, largest, international olive oil competition in the world, which is the Los Angeles International Olive Oil Competition,” Mindermann said.  


Customer Jack Warren has shopped at Corti Brothers for nearly 50 years and said the market has stayed consistent in having good products and he has learned a lot about wine from Darrell Corti.


“I learned that Darrell knows more about wine than anybody in the United States,” Warren said. “I once had a bottle of wine that I told Darrell was a 1929 third growth with a split and he said I didn’t, that it was a 1927 because 1929 was the depression and they didn’t make one [then]. He was right [and I] never doubted him since.”


Corti Brothers provides a variety of ethnic food products and can help customers expand the knowledge of meals they can make themselves.