Sacramento Delta: Giusti's still cooking after all these years

Road Journals Blog—Oral history has it that Giusti’s—said to be the longest-operating restaurant in the Delta—opened in Walnut Grove in 1912. But owner Mark Morais has a cash-register receipt that dates back to 1910.

You know a restaurant is pretty old when no one is sure how long it’s been around.

What’s uncertain is whether that receipt was produced at Giusti’s current location—so close to the Sacramento River that it offers boat parking for patrons—or at its original spot, just across the river in the Ryde Hotel.

“We can’t really be sure,” said longtime bartender Jim Koteles. “So we just say we’ve been here for around 100 years.”

Of course, some things at Giusti’s are relatively new. Like the hat tradition. That dates to the 1970s (again, exact dates are hard to come by at Giusti’s), when patrons would frequently leave their hats behind inadvertently before departing. “They’d show up at the bar at daylight and leave after dark, so it’s only natural that quite a few of them would forget their hats,” said Koteles.

It wasn’t long before another bartender, Mark Rogerson, got the idea to staple the abandoned chapeaus to the ceiling above the bar in a quirky lost-and-found.

The gesture got some laughs, none more so than from those forgetful patrons who saw their own hats staring down at them.

Memorable, sure. But it didn’t stop people from leaving their hats at Giusti’s. It’s since reached the point where they do it intentionally. Scores of caps are now stuck to the ceiling, all of them stapled there by Rogerson, who still pours drinks at the bar.

“He stapled the first ones way back when,” Koteles says. “So we figured he might as well keep on doing it.”

Josh Sens's articles about the Sacramento Delta will appear on AAA.com/via in June. 

This blog post was first published in June 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.