Restaurant of the Week: D’Elia’s Grinders

D’Elia’s Grinders, 2093 University Ave. (at Kansas), Riverside; also 19009 Van Buren Blvd; open daily

In Riverside a few weeks ago, I made a point of checking out an old recommendation from a reader or two, which was to eat at D’Elia’s, an old-time shop that specializes in grinders, otherwise known as submarine sandwiches.

D’Elia’s was founded in 1955, a little before Ontario’s Grinder Haven, still in business but long out of the original owners’ hands. The D’Elia’s family owned it at one point, if I understand the history of each correctly. Today D’Elia’s is still in family hands, which seems to have made all the difference. Some scoff at Grinder Haven, saying no one knows what a grinder is anymore, but inside D’Elia’s on a Saturday afternoon it was wall to wall customers.

The dining room is blandly 1980s, so there’s no charm in it. But there was an electric charge to be in a line at a nearly full restaurant. The menu is pretty much all sandwiches, except for a few salads.

I ordered a half Sicilian grinder — capocolla, pepperoni, salami (both cotto and genoa) and provolone, with shredded lettuce — along with a bag of chips and a drink. The half sandwich was $9.63, compared to $11.07 for a full. In a way, that was a smart move, because the sandwich was all I could handle, and I don’t think leaving another half in my hot car all afternoon would have been the best idea.

It was delicious, the meats peppery, the bread fresh and crusty. As the shop’s slogan goes: “It’s the bread.” It made such a difference that you can’t help but lament all over again that latter-day Grinder Haven owners have stopped baking their own rolls, deciding it wasn’t worth the effort. It is. The crowds at D’Elia’s are proof.

Trivia note: According to a framed newspaper story on the wall about the restaurant’s history, the name is pronounced “Duh-EE-lee-uh’s.” I wish they still had the original sign, seen below in a vintage photo on a banner on the patio.

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  • Bonnie

    When my husband and I were dating in 1963 he told me that he was going to take me to Riverside for a grinder. 40 miles for a grinder? No way. But we ended up there one Saturday afternoon at the location on University, I remember the old building, eat outside or in your car only. Well 50+ years later D’Elia’s Grinders is still the best. And I still make the trip from La Verne. The bread is what makes the grinders so good, crunchy crust, inside soft but holds up well under the massive amount of filling. Oh Yum, I know where I’m going after Christmas….
    Bonnie

    • davidallen909

      That must be something, to be able to eat at a restaurant for more than half a century and to find that the quality holds up as well. Enjoy your next grinder, Bonnie.

  • Marlene Hargrove

    I had never heard of this place until I read your post. My husband and I have been searching for a grinder sandwich that rivals the original Grinder Haven in Ontario. We made the trek out to Riverside this weekend and were not disappointed. Their slogan “it’s the bread” is right on point! If the current owner of Grinder Haven could duplicate D’Elia’s bread, they would be back on track. The outside patio was clean and a nice place to take a lunch break. Thanks for your post!

    • davidallen909

      I’m pleased to be of service, Marlene. Even though it’s Riverside, I figured D’Elia’s was worth a post because it’s proof that Grinder Haven could succeed again if the quality were there — and even though supposedly “nobody knows what a grinder is.” If nothing else, D’Elia’s is a place for disaffected Grinder Haven fans to congregate and remember how good a sandwich like that can be.