A Visit to Old Oakland’s Landmark G. B. Ratto & Co.

Article originally published in San Francisco On The Bay Travel Hub.

Walking through the tall doors of Ratto’s, you may journey back to the time years ago when you first discovered this hidden gem in its beautiful Victorian storefront in Old Oakland. Giovanni Battista Ratto opened his shop in 1897 as one of the first groceries offering Mediterranean spices, bulk rice, beans and pasta, Italian Olive Oils and more. Besides serving the Bay Area, people would travel from the valley for two hours just to come here and buy the ingredients they needed to prepare their family recipes in the small towns where they lived. G.B. was Elena Durante’s great grandfather. Her grandfather and father, both named Martin Durante, carried on the tradition until Elena took over the business in 2001.

“We are now an authentic West Coast Deli,” says Elena. “In addition to making great deli and hot-pressed sandwiches, we also stock a wide selection of gourmet groceries, wines and bulk spice.  Back in the day we were one of the few specialty grocery stores here and helped people continue their culinary traditions.” G.B. Ratto & Co. still offers a vast selection of fresh dried herbs and spices with a large selection of special pastas, Ratto’s vinegar, Olive Oils, a scrumptious chile paste, lovely cheeses and meats, fresh lunch salads and of course, a curated selection of wines.

It has that hint of Old World Market with influences from France, Italy and Spain. There’s also Orange and Rose Flower Water, Pomegranate Molasses, Dolmas and some Turkish products, a great tahini and Lemon Infused Olive Oil from Italy. “Another thing people love about us is that we have a great selection of chocolate bars – good for that afternoon snack,” adds Elena.

Ratto’s is nestled between Caffé 817, known for their legendary coffee and homemade fare, and District, known for their whiskey, wines and house made charcuterie. “We serve the working population down here,” continues Elena. “Ratto’s serves hearty, delicious sandwiches with fresh ingredients on the coveted acme rolls and baguettes.” Each week they have a weekly special sandwich, signature

Salmon and dill with cucumber

sandwiches and a huge list of ingredients so that you can create your own. For the week of Mon., Feb. 20th to Sat., Feb. 25th, their sandwich special features imported jamon serrano and manchego from Spain with thyme-scented chèvre cream spread, marinated artichoke hearts and peppery arugula, lightly pressed on an Acme ciabatta roll.

“Fridays are a great day to visit Ratto’s,” adds Elena. “There’s gorgeous local produce in the Friday Farmers Market outside our doors. You can buy basil and tomatoes and come inside to buy the olive oil and pasta.”

G.B.Ratto & Co. is located at 821 Washington St. “This building is so so special – so beautiful. Look at the height of the ceiling. It’s a Victorian with incredibly high ceilings and a 1936 Terrazzo floor on Victorian Row in Oakland.”

Elena’s husband Michael is a Jazz pianist and plays on Saturdays from 1-3pm and sometimes as a trio. Join the community and enjoy a relaxing afternoon. And, by the way, Ratto’s turns 120 in 2017!

Hours: Mon-Fri, 8:30a – 4:30p and Sat. 10a-4p

Phone: 510-832-6503

Special ingredient – fig! -Italian herbed ham with black olive & fig tapenade, chevre with fresh thyme, marinated sweet onions & arugula on Acme baguette

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