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November 9-15, 2005

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

Bring Back the Prosciutto

By Gary Singh


Anyone who has driven or walked by the dead buildings on Santa Clara Street downtown has gazed at the red "Ravioli" sign marking what used to be Firato's Delicatessen at 28 E. Santa Clara. It is a beautiful art deco sign, one of only a few of its kind left in San Jose. I've wanted to steal it for years. I believe the place opened sometime during the '20s, and it was everyone's favorite Italian deli for decades. It was the quintessential family business handed down through the generations. From what I've heard, the succulent aromas of the place left a huge impact in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it closed in 1977 when proprietor Carlo Firato passed away.

But guess what? Two of Carlo's grandsons, Richard and Alfred, are trying to bring it back. Now that those dead buildings are finally about to be seismically retrofitted and restored, there is a proposal from the Firato brothers before the San Jose Redevelopment Agency and the property owners (the Barber Trust) to rebuild Firato's Delicatessen at the original site. That brick building was built in 1880 and it's also one of the few of its kind left in this town. It has tremendous historical significance. Downtown has needed a killer deli for years now, and with evil landlords constantly slaughtering mom and pop businesses solely because they can, the resurrection of Firato's deli would be a gigantic step forward for downtown. Go to www.firatodelicatessen.com and voice your support.

Of course, if the Firato Brothers actually saw what goes down on Santa Clara Street on a Friday or Saturday night past 11pm or so, they'd probably think twice about reviving their grandfather's former establishment. On the weekends, Santa Clara Street, from HP Pavilion all the way to maybe 13th Street or so, becomes an epicenter for thugs, pseudo gangbangers and bumper-to-bumper cruising. Teenagers in gang attire run all over the place, in the streets and the sidewalks. About five years ago, the police actually shelled out gazillions of tickets for cruising, but now it's dwindled somewhat. They're basically serving as baby sitters more than anything else. And when you try to explain the severity of the problem to someone in the burbs, they just don't believe you. They think you're exaggerating.

The reason most San Joseans don't know about this whole scene is because it doesn't kick in until about 11pm or midnight. You can come downtown, go to the theater, the symphony or a festival and have dinner with your family and then split by 10pm and not even realize there's any problem. But any time something good starts to emerge downtown, the gangbangers ruin it. And none of these thuggish types are actually from downtown—they're all from the outside. This has been going on for years now, but only recently have folks been starting to bring it to the general public's attention.

But back to Firato's. If they actually get the store back, this is a good sign. More local retail will lead to more local residents, and that will lead to more angry citizens coming out of the woodwork to help deal with the problems in that area. We need more independent businesses like Firato's Delicatessen downtown. Get rid of the gangbangers and bring back the prosciutto!


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