Marie’s Italian Deli in Cumming

Written By: Bre Humphries

THERE’S NOTHING QUITE as heartwarming as the success story of a true, family owned and operated business. And when the food is as comforting as what you’ll find at Marie’s Italian Deli in Cumming, you can be sure you’ll finish your meal here with both a sated stomach and satisfied soul.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

“My Aunt Marie had a pizza parlor in California,” says owner Karen Smith. “That was my first job when I was 15 … I always thought it would be fun to do something like that.” But her inspiration for an authentic Italian deli dates back one more generation to her grandmother, who emigrated from Southern Italy to Long Beach, California, by way of Toronto.

Smith, who has now been in North Georgia for 28 years, recalls fondly the tastes and smells of her Nanny’s California kitchen and memories of fabulous Italian feasts with the family after Sunday mass—a sensation she wanted to recreate when she opened her very own restaurant here. When she discovered a former Mellow Mushroom location that had been vacant for three years in Cumming’s Tri-County Plaza, she knew she was being led to launch it.

“We were shocked it had been vacant so long,” says Matt Smith, Karen’s son and general manager of the restaurant.

“It was waiting for me,” Karen says.

The restaurant name simply followed family tradition dating back to Karen’s great-grandmother Marie, who passed her family ever since.

“My middle name is not Marie,” quips Matt; but that doesn’t make him any less integral to the family business.

In fact, the operation is an all-handson-deck venture for the Smiths; Karen’s sister and a slew of other relatives are also involved, including two elementary-aged great nephews who help their own nanny in the bakery on the weekends.

BUON APPETITO

The whole Smith crew was also involved in creating the menu at Marie’s, right down to the ingredients they would use in their pizza sauce and cheese blends. Karen recalls a night that eight of them sat down around a table to taste test 15 different types of tomatoes. They all made notes about their favorites without discussing it as a group, but the results were unanimous.

“I think more than anything we knew what we wanted,” says Matt. “It’s a flavor that we grew up with. I can’t describe it, but I know what it is.”

In addition to hand-tossed, stone-baked pizzas, Marie’s menu features hot and cold subs, salads, strombolis and calzones. Many dishes pay homage to individual family members—Fat Matt’s Stromboli, for instance, with marinara, meatballs, smoked ham, veggies and mozzarella; and—my personal favorite—The Sorry 3, a warm sub with sopressata, prosciutto, smoked ham, provolone, fried eggplant, and sweet red cherry peppers named after an old wooden cabin cruiser Karen’s dad and two uncles used to take out for family fishing trips.

The restaurant also serves breakfast six days a week, dishing out delectable fare like frittatas, New York-style bagels and crowdpleasing pancakes.

In addition to hand-tossed, stone-baked pizzas, Marie’s menu features hot and cold subs, salads, strombolis and calzones. Many dishes pay homage to individual family members—Fat Matt’s Stromboli, for instance, with marinara, meatballs, smoked ham, veggies and mozzarella; and—my personal favorite—The Sorry 3, a warm sub with sopressata, prosciutto, smoked ham, provolone, fried eggplant, and sweet red cherry peppers named after an old wooden cabin cruiser Karen’s dad and two uncles used to take out for family fishing trips.

The restaurant also serves breakfast six days a week, dishing out delectable fare like frittatas, New York-style bagels and crowd-pleasing pancakes.

SWEET SUCCESS

Marie’s has been in business since 2012, but its offerings have stretched and grown over the last nine years. Most notable was the addition of a bar area and an expansion of the bakery run by Karen’s sister, Annette. The case of colorful cookies, cakes, cannoli and more, all baked in-house, is simply too tantalizing to forgo, as is a selection of creamy gelato you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the area. (Try the spumoni, an Italian-style Neapolitan with stripes of chocolate, cherry and pistachio.)

The expansion opened in February 2020 … then Covid hit in March. But business never slowed for the Smith family.

“We did better than we did [the year before],” Karen says, attributing the uninterrupted success with her family’s creativity and tremendous support from the community. The restaurant offered things like quarantine date night meals with wine to-go, make-your-own pizza kits, and parking lot trivia nights during the seven weeks their dining room was closed. Their take-and-bake cooler, stocked with a changing selection of Italian favorites like lasagna and chicken Parmesan, was and continues to be a huge hit, and carry-out business is still going strong.

But Marie’s has high hopes for their dining room this spring, too, with plans to bring live entertainment into the bar area and expand the outdoor patio. Plans are also in the works for fundraisers and collaborative events with other local businesses.

“I just want to give a big thanks to the community for supporting local in 2020,” says Matt. “It really helped us get through this crazy time.”

Clearly, family is important at Marie’s—and the Cumming community is a part of that family, too.

MARIE’S ITALIAN DELI

Monday – Thursday, 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Friday & Saturday, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.

590 Atlanta Road, Suite 34

Cumming

mariesitaliandeli.com

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