Jackson Heights deli celebrates 50th anniversary

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Did you ever consider a corner deli to be considered a citadel of strength and perseverance? Take another look because neighbors, friends, relatives, customers and politicians all turned out Saturday in Jackson Heights to honor a special lady and her family.

Rosalie Di Giovanni, her son Anthony and her daughter Marianne were on hand to greet the hordes of well-wishers. At one point, the store was so crammed with people, estimated at 125, that some had to assemble outside the front door.

Rose and her husband Nick had opened N&R Deli at 77-19 25th Ave. in 1960. It was your typical mom-and-pop store in a newly developing Jackson Heights. There were many new developments going up and many new families moving in. In the 1960s in Jackson Heights, there were plenty of wide open spaces, ballfields, close proximity to the World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Shea Stadium and LaGuardia Airport, which was introducing Jet Flights. Athletes and stewardesses were all over the neighborhood. Everything was on the upswing.

The deli had the feel of a general store. Office workers from the nearby Bulova Watch Co., Police, Sanitation and Fire departments, school kids and parents were all regulars. People came to exchange information and stories. Candy bars were 5 cents and bologna heroes 50 cents. Nick’s Deli became the focal point of this growing community. Rose manned the register, where she interacted with customers and Nick, a soft-spoken ex-Marine, stayed in the background in the deli section.

Life was moving along for the Di Giovanni family, but in 1985 Nick succumbed to pancreatic cancer after struggling with the disease. Rose, with the help of her friend Rose Kennedy and surrogate son, Sal Costello, kept the deli going — and until this day is considered a Jackson Heights landmark.

The real impact that Rose had on the community was reflected Saturday. A ceremony organized by City Councilman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) included Monsignor Mahoney from nearby Our Lady of Fatima Church, city Comptroller John Liu, state Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), Donna Raymond from the North Queens Homeowners Civic Association and Angela DenDekker, representing U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights).

Short speeches accompanied plaques and proclamations. Bouquets of flowers and greeting cards were everywhere. The crowd all sang “God Bless America,” led by New York Ranger national anthem singer John Amirante.

And then came the food: hot trays, sandwiches, cakes and champagne. Someone asked Rose if everybody could do this every Saturday.

Typically, Rose being Rose, after having only a small piece of cake the whole day, was seen walking around serving the last stragglers with hors d’oeuvres on trays.

Updated 6:14 pm, October 10, 2011
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Reader feedback

H&R Deli from Jackson Heights Queens NY says:
One of the last real neighborhood family businesses left in Jackson Heights
Great home style sandwiches and Itilian style catering . ****
Feb. 14, 2014, 3:06 pm

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