MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ - During a Friday visit to the Mountainside Deli at 895 Mountain Ave., virtually everyone who entered the store was greeted by name -- usually by more than one of the people. A steady stream of customers came in between noon and 2 p.m. and most of the customers were regulars.
Carpenters David Leiz of Westfield and Bill Ostenfeld of Clark, were greeted by owners Geri Debbie Polce and her husband, Rick Polce, with "Hi Dave, Hi Bill" as they came in to pick up lunch,
Leiz asked, "Do you still have fish?" and, when the answer was, "Yes," Leiz took the fried flounder filet, something he said he always orders on Fridays.
He and Ostenfeld said they work in the area a lot and are regulars who know the menu well. Asked to name their favorite dishes, Leiz said, "Meatloaf," which is one of the specials on Tuesday. "It's so good," he said, "if my wife won't be home that night, I come back and get the meatloaf for my dinner."
Ostenfeld said his favorite meal is "macaroni and cheese."
Both men said they "come in here a lot," in part because "the food is good and there are pleasant people" behind the counter who "call the customers by name."
Both Rick and Geri worked in the hospitality business at various locations. They first crossed paths when Rick took over as general manager at the Steak and Ale on Route 22, where Geri was working and that was it. They've been married 36 years, have two sons, 34 and 29, and have been working together for years.
To hear Rick tell the story, Geri's father, who started Mountainside Deli in 1952, having run the business for more than 40 years, gathered the family together and asked if anyone was interested in taking over the family business, "She raised her hand and said, 'I am,'" said Rick. He and Geri bought the store from her father 20 years ago and they've been having "a lot of fun" ever since, he said. "It was a natural step" for both of them, Rick said.
Geri worked at the store when she was attending Governor Livingston High School. Asked if she ever thought she would one day own the store, she said, "Yes, I think when I was in high school I thought I would own the store. Yes, I knew."
Gus Jakuboswki and Doreen Crincoli greeted Robert Benoir as he walked in the door with a cheery, "Hi Robert."
He said he's been a regular customer since he moved in to Mountainside 40 years ago, "when her father owned the store. I came in the day after I moved in for a sandwich and coffee." He said he continues to come in almost every day, "As long as I'm mobile, I'm here." As for the coffee, he called it "the best coffee in New Jersey." He said he knows that for a fact because he has tried other coffee while commuting between his home and his office in Branchburg and nothing compares to theirs.
Rick called the store the "original Mom and Pop. We make all our own stuff here and ninety-five percent of it is from original recipes."
They have added other items, including "baked turkey and gravy, with cranberry sauce and stuffing; pot roast and all homemade soups," Rick said. (The turkey and pot roast are Monday specials.)
They use the original recipes for all their salads and serve up two types of potato salad -- mayonnaise-based and a German-style -- which are always in demand and one of the "strengths of our menu," he said.
Two other strengths are their roast beef, which they cook themselves and use the juices to make the gravy and soup, and the baked oval sweet-spiced ham, he said. (The ham is served on Saturday and Sunday.)
Geri said they start the day by turning on the grill at 7 a.m. The store, which is take out only, is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. Unlike a lot of deli's, this one is strictly take-out. It has hot and cold food, cold drinks, ice cream novelties, chips and the like, but this is not a restaurant. Everything there is "to go."
Mountainside Deli also does catering and its catering/platter menu is on the website.
Check out the menus, including the daily specials, on the website and call in your order to 908-233-3092. Benoir said, "Give your order. They are very precise and make it as you asked for it."