Joe’s Italian Deli is a Sophisticated Alternative to Rams


Joe’s Italian Deli offers hand-pulled mozzarella and in-house salami. (Courtesy of Clare Hannon for The Fordham Ram)

​​Around the corner from Casa Della Mozzarella and (a lot) more sophisticated than Rams Deli, Joe’s Italian Deli deserves just as much hype as either. Spacious and welcoming, the sandwich shop at 187th and Cambreleng has been hand-pulling mozzarella and curing salami in-house since 1979. But tasty meats and cheeses aren’t the only thing Joe’s Deli has to offer. The deli makes sandwiches in the back of the shop, and the store has a thoughtfully curated selection of dry goods in the front of the store. Artisan and imported olive oils, chile oils, olives, chocolates, candies, crackers, breads, panetones and pastas greet you as soon as you walk in, making it hard to check out with only a sandwich. 

I went on a Sunday afternoon: prime time for people watching, but not so ideal for asking questions for The Fordham Ram. Despite the line to the door and the chaos of sandwiches to be made and fresh olives to be packaged, Mozzarella Master Kurt Acocella happily made time to sit with me and answer my questions as I ate my “Big Tony” sandwich (honey turkey, dried tomatoes, smoked mozzarella and vinaigrette on a fresh sesame hero). Asking if I had ever tried his mozzarella, and disappointed when I admitted I hadn’t, he threw up his hands, marched behind the counter and came back with a perfect knot of fresh, chewy mozzarella. After he brought me my sample, he realized he was running low on mozzarella, so he left for the kitchen. I sat with my sandwich, looking after him when he turned back and shouted through the store, “Yo Fordham! Get back here, and bring your notebook!” I grabbed my pen and my phone and got to watch Acocella make a fresh batch of mozzarella, trying warm bites of cheese as he tied off the knots. Acocella has been working at Joe’s Deli for six years, but has been working in delis around the Belmont area for almost 40 years. Acocella explained to me that what makes Joe’s Deli such a wonderful place to work is the chance he gets to utilize his culinary skills and the diversity of his everyday tasks. He isn’t just “buttering rolls and making coffee” like he did at previous delis. From pulling 300 pounds of mozzarella every weekend to taking orders and mixing olives, Acocella’s tasks vary and make working at Joe’s Deli perpetually interesting. 

Despite the hand-painted signs in the front of the store advertising the mozzarella and burrata from Joe’s, Acocella says: “Mozzarella is what gets people in the door, but Joe’s Deli is so much more than that.” And just how true that is becomes clear when you step inside. The small facade facing 187th does no justice to the huge store waiting for you. Meats, cheeses and, around this time of year, brilliantly wrapped chocolate Easter eggs hang from the ceiling, and the shelves along each wall are full of interesting items. The thing that makes Joe’s Deli so special is how effortlessly they blend tradition with modernization. Their Instagram is  (@joesitaliandelibronx), and their website ( is always up-to-date plus easy to use and navigate. 

Beyond these keys to a modern business, Joe’s Deli offers shipping of dry goods and catering for any event (here’s looking at you, Fordham clubs). Joe’s Deli has been a staple in the Arthur Avenue/Belmont district for decades, but they have diversified and modernized through the years and remain as relevant and valuable today as they were when they first opened. Alongside the goods imported from Italy or made in-house in the traditional, old-world style, owner Anthony Ruscigno makes sure they offer goods from new, local businesses, like drinks and snacks proudly made in New York. Joe’s Deli also offers gluten-free and vegetarian dry goods and vegetarian sandwiches. But more than the delicious dry goods and sandwiches to fill your stomach, the deli sells tote bags, shirts, sweatshirts and other items with the Joe’s Deli logo on them to help make the business feel even more special and modern.

After founder Joe Ruscigno passed away in 2017, the business had to adapt. Current owner Anthony Ruscigno, son of founders Joe and Maria Ruscigno, works hard to keep the Southern Italian traditions alive post-coronavirus. Acocella mentioned how difficult it is to keep the business thriving while the cost of food continues to soar after the pandemic: “We’re not going to charge $20 for a sandwich, but it’s hard to make a living.” Businesses are closing all around Joe’s Deli, so now, more than ever, Joe’s Deli and the entire Belmont community needs support from Fordham. “We sell good food, quality merchandise, all with personable people. We’re a neighborhood business … a mom and pop,” Acocella says. So ease into Joe’s Deli the next time you’re craving a delicious, reasonably priced sandwich in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., or 3:30 p.m. on Sundays, you will always have a seat at their communal tables. And if you come in with a Casa Della Mozzarella bag like the couple from Boston who ordered behind me did, you’ll certainly get a free sample of Joe’s Deli’s tastier hand-pulled mozzarella.