First & Franklin Marketplace
By Craig Smith
If you’ve spent any time in downtown Napa, you’ve heard the lament that there isn’t a good, affordable deli. Oh, plenty of good food; but not a sink-your-teeth-into-it great sandwich or salad deli. Well, that’s no longer the case.
First & Franklin Marketplace opened their deli last month, and they check all the right boxes – great food at reasonable prices. Flexible, family oriented fabulous food. For the time being, they are available to pick up at their door on First Street or by delivery. Either way, you’ll be pleased.
First & Franklin opened in a roundabout way. Michael Holcomb Jr. is a commercial real estate broker, developer, and dyed in the wool Napan. When Susan Altamura, owner of the Napa Tourist Information Center, decided to take her business in a new direction, she called on Michael. Michael saw two things he liked: a great location and an amazing opportunity to morph the business into something that locals and visitors would both love. He suggested she open a deli in the back of the store. He spent a lot of time in downtown Napa and didn’t think there were many reasonable options for workers and city and county staff. Altamura loved the idea, but told him she didn’t feel comfortable opening a deli, and suggested he do it. Holcomb was intrigued, but knew that he and his wife Claire didn’t have the food chops necessary to make it happen. A huge fan of Napa Palisades Saloon, he called Chuck Meyer and asked for help. The new partners talked long and late for many nights about what kind of business would truly serve Napa. Ultimately, they bought Altamura out and opened the new business.
First & Franklin Marketplace originally offered retail items, an impressive tasting area serving beer and wine, tasteful Napa Valley clothing and much more. Sales were brisk, and they knew they had a hit. They walled off the back of the store and started constructing the deli. The day they got their permit to open called for a celebration. It was also the day of the COVID shut down.
“We had to close the whole place, but it gave us a chance to really focus on the deli,” said Holcomb. Palisades chef Tim Brown, who opened a deli in San Francisco that is still operating twelve years later, was the natural choice to develop the menu. “This place is for locals, by locals, and we want everything here to reflect that. We want the community to be proud of the place,” said Holcomb.
One bite of Dave’s Wave ($12.95), a homemade tuna salad sandwich with, bacon, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickles and I was proud as punch. It is, hands down, the best tuna salad sandwich I’ve ever had (sorry, Mom, but it just is.) Good as it is, Meyer said it isn’t even among the top sellers. “That honor goes to the Big Mike!” he said. It’s a deli lover’s delight – prosciuotto, mortadella, Genoa salami, fresh mozzarella, lettuce and Sicilian olive salad; all for only $13.95. Also at the top of the early favorites list is the Jankbot, with turkey, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion and smoked chili mayo. The Old F&F includes turkey, Genoa salami, cheddar, avocado, lettuce, tomato and whole grain mustard finishes the list of current favorites, but you can expect that other offerings will share the top spots from time to time. Both sandwiches are only $12.95. There is, of course, a whole build your own menu – make your deli fave the way you like it.
If salad is more to your liking, there are five to choose from. I had the South of the Border ($13.95) with charred corn, cucumbers, cotija, pico de gallo, crispy tortillas, pickled onion, mixed greens and a roasted pablano-buttermilk dressing. For an extra three bucks, they added lots of tender-cooked chicken. It was fresh and fairly bursting with flavor. The list of nonalcoholic beverages, canned wines and cold beer fills a full legal-sized page. Trust me, you’ll easily find something you like.
One wonders why the deli doesn’t allow indoor seating. “It’ll come,” said Meyer. “Our decision making process and timing are all about the safety of our employees and the community.” Holcomb adds, “Safety is definitely first on our minds. This is a long game, and we are going to be here for a long time.” Outdoor seating is in the works and limited indoor seating is part of the plan. “Some folks are still a little cautious about going out,” said Meyer.
To that end, First & Franklin Marketplace offers delivery. They also shop at the Tuesday Farmers Market and prepare vegetable boxes for customers to pick up. “Some folks still aren’t comfortable going to the Farmers Market. This way they can still get fresh produce every week.”
The website lists what kind of produce you can expect in the weekly boxes. The new deli also offers an array of “chilled to cook later” meals. Asked about their overall objective, Holcomb thought for only a second before answering. “As long time Napa residents, we want to help feed your family,” said Michael.
1331 First Street at Franklin | Napa | (707) 252-1000
Open Monday – Friday | firstandfranklin.com