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Bianca's Deli: Keeping Sandwiches Simple

The deli in the Moraga Shopping Center is popular with students, residents and nearby employees

Bill Shelden, owner of Bianca's Deli in Moraga
Bill Shelden, owner of Bianca's Deli in Moraga
Bill Shelden has one simple rule for his employees at Bianca's Deli in Moraga.

They must be able to make a sandwich in 30 seconds.

"We have to be able to move people in and out of here," said Shelden.

Despite that technique, there are days when the lunchtime line at Bianca's still snakes out the door and down the pathway outside the deli in the Moraga Shopping Center.

"Sometimes the line is huge," said Shelden, "but I think most people don't mind. They get to talk to each other."

Bianca's Deli has been a destination for residents, nearby employees, St. Mary's College students, Miramonte High students and Campolindo High students for the two decades Shelden and his wife, Marcy, have owned the place.

In 1994, Shelden had already worked for years as an executive chef at Neptune's Waterfront Grill & Bar and other restaurants in San Francisco.

Marcy had worked as a food server for the same company for more than a decade.

It's how the couple met.

They decided they wanted to own their own place and make their life simpler.

"We wanted to calm down our life a bit," said Shelden.

So, they bought the cafe and named it after their daughter, who is now 30.

Life hasn't been exactly calm since then.

Shelden said he took over a place that not only needed a new name and new owner but also a new reputation.

The couple started roasting their own meat. They made their own salads. And they came up with a recipe for sourdough rolls that another company makes and then delivers to them half-baked. The Sheldens then heat them up for their sandwiches.

Shelden said they keep things pretty simple at the deli. There are drinks, chips and an assortment of salads. And there are also about 60 types of sandwiches.

The most popular is the grilled chicken with jack cheese.

There are also some sandwiches not on menu named for past customers such the "Jacoby" for a former local athlete. There's also the "680," so named because it used to cost $6.80.

These days, Shelden and his employees usually make between 400 and 600 sandwiches on a busy Saturday. On a slow weekday, they might put together 200 to 300 sandwiches.

Shelden said anything with bacon is usually popular. The deli goes through 72 pounds of bacon a day.

Shelden is usually busy making sandwiches. His wife is generally working the register or driving to Costco or a restaurant supply store to pick up meat, cheese, bread and whatever else the deli may need.

The deli is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Shelden and his wife both believe at least one of them should be at the shop at all times.

So, they both work six days a week. On Bill's day off, Marcy is there. And on Marcy's day off, Bill is there.

Retirement is still a ways off, but Shelden said they enjoy the lifestyle.

Most days, Shelden can walk from their home in Moraga to work. He enjoys the customers and he likes the simple, efficient way the deli has run for the past 20 years.

BarryT January 27, 2014 at 02:57 PM
Sandwiches are good but everything else about this business is terrible. Besides being a rip off for a sandwich chips and a drink, Workers are rude, iam pretty sure its the only business in the lamorinda area that accepts cash only or local checks. They have an ATM but it charges you $2+ just to use it.
anon January 27, 2014 at 04:34 PM
The sandwiches are good but not worth $6+ ...paying is harder as well as getting chips and a drink is too expensive. Now I only go to Safeway because at least it's cheaper and the 7th sandwich is free....
Lynn Simpson January 27, 2014 at 05:22 PM
Amazing that the previous comments say they are rude and expensive. We've been going to Bianca's since they opened, and we think they are fabulous. The sandwiches are so large, we usually share one! And you can get it any way you want. At Safeway, you get it the way they make it! When the lines are long, they are business like because they want to get you your food quickly. But they are not rude. Try the pulled pork on a fresh baked roll - nothing better! We say Bianca's rocks!
Jeff Raleigh January 27, 2014 at 07:53 PM
Bill and Marcy are great, as are their sandwiches. It's a great spot for Moraga.
Jeff Raleigh January 27, 2014 at 07:54 PM
It's too bad their drive thru didn't work!
Art Ziekel January 27, 2014 at 11:04 PM
Never seen that guy smile before. The sandwiches are tasty, which is good because the customer service is chilly.

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