PEOPLE

The Downtown Deli: Meet the Family Behind Caruso’s Deli

While Busch Stadium and the Arch may be Downtown destinations, St. Louisans know one of the best aspects of the urban core is the food. A favorite among the local lunch crowd? Family sandwich shop Caruso’s Deli.

Carl Caruso’s father, Jerry, launched Caruso’s Deli in July of 2010. “My father was an executive chef all over the country and he was looking to do something that was a bit more ours—more of our family,” Caruso explains. “When it came down to it, he knew he could make a mean sandwich and it has been a passion of ours to feed people. Who doesn’t eat sandwiches?”

The menu at Caruso’s Deli is expansive, with sandwiches, melts, wraps and salads. Wanting something classic? Caruso mentions the turkey, bacon and avocado as a tasty, traditional option. More adventurous? Go for the one-of-a-kind Cajun beef. And the popular veggie sandwich has a cult following. When the deli relocated from its first Downtown location a year ago, the veggie sandwich almost didn’t come with it. Neighbors were outraged, says Caruso, recalling customers coming in to say, You can’t change my veggie sandwich!

Caruso and his girlfriend, Michelle Yee, run the deli together, but he explains his entire family has worked there at one point. In Wentzville, his mother, father and brother run another family business: Benefits Bistro, an eatery in partnership with Friendship Brewery.

But even with some of the family working in the suburbs, Caruso’s Deli is still a family business. “There’s no one who works for me who isn’t family, even though we’re not related,” Caruso says. “They’re very kind folks and we actually care that when you walk out, you’re happy.” And one look at the reviews solidifies his point; words like “favorite” and “gem” are mentioned often, along with reviews that note Caruso and Yee by name.

Since its launch, Caruso’s Deli has been housed Downtown, and Caruso says the location comes with plenty of benefits. “I don’t know of a better group of people than those in the Downtown area, and certainly the folks that I’ve known for the past eight years,” he explains of the crowd. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to be part of that community.”