A runway success story
Deli at Chico airport fulfills a dream and serves a great lunch
When I was a kid, my best friend Dale and I used to peddle our bikes some 10 miles to get to “the fence” at the end of Burbank Airport’s west-southwest runway. The fence not only provided a convenient place to lean our bikes against, but also was an awesome place to feel the full-on rush of flight. Whether it was a single-engine Cessna or a 727 jetliner, Dale and I marveled and swore that some day we’d both be pilots.
Eventually hunger would grab us. We peddled, believing we left invisible contrails behind us, as we navigated the 10 miles it took to get to Dale’s mom’s kitchen.
Rosie’s Deli on the Runway is kind of like Dale’s mom’s kitchen; a great place to hang and chow down on some home cooked fare—and, coincidentally, bicyclists come here to eat too!
Located adjacent to the Chico Municipal Airport’s runway and Con Air, Rosie’s Deli began … well, you might say on the pages of the Chico News & Review!
“Mystery Deli For Sale,” explains Roseanne (Rosie) Hansen, it’s owner. “I saw it in the CNR last July, I think. So I checked into it.”
That “mystery deli” turned out to be the Beachfront Deli, a long time Chico airport eatery owned by Pam Wilson. Several potential buyers inquired, a few made bids.
“But Pam ultimately chose us as the buyers,” recalls Rosie, “largely because, according to her, we had a dream.”
Before plunging into the restaurant business, Rosie worked at Enloe Medical Center, as a unit secretary/monitor technician. If your heart went bad, bleeped, or burped, it was most likely Hansen that alerted nurses to the trouble.
“But I always wanted to open an Italian deli,” states Rosie, who just turned 50. “We’re starting out small. And soon there will be a deli machine over here, and I’ll have select meats and cheeses to serve on the side.”
Ah, a dreamer, and what a place to dream. There’s something romantic about Rosie’s. Located in a structure built during World War II, Rosie’s Deli overlooks the runway. From there one can gaze out at Chico’s sweeping vista, its cobalt-blue skies and verdant valley with purple-tinged coastal ranges in the distance. It takes you back; time seems to have no meaning here. I can recall Lucky Lindy, Amelia Earhart and Bogie’s kiss to Bacall in the movie Casablanca, and I wasn’t even born yet.
But then, the Chico Air Museum is slated to reopen soon; parking some old vintage aircraft next to Rosie’s and utilizing some of the same building space to display the past, it only reinforces the already dreamy quality of the place.
Maybe I still associate flying with some sort of heroism, and with Rosie—trying to make a go of it. Well, in a small way it’s a bit heroic.
“But I couldn’t do it without my daughter Stefanie,” says Rosie. Just then Stefanie, 24, reaches over us to water a couple of house plants. Part cook, part janitor, Stefanie also helps her mom keep the books.
“Don’t let Mom fool you,” says Stefanie, “she works more than I do. I’ll just help out for now and the foreseeable future.”
Family run, and the food is good. Try, of all things, Rosie’s grilled cheese. Stuffed with provolone and mozzarella, roasted red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil and toasted on sourdough, the sandwich is grilled, not pan fried.
Another favorite is the Airport Manager’s Burger. It comes with blue cheese and bacon, and it already has its own mini-following. I also recommend the triple-decker Turkey Club.
Rosie’s Deli on the Runway may not have a typical location, but it does possess a view, it’s adjacent to history, thanks to the Chico Air Museum, and it exudes a certain kind of heroic adventure that’s one part flight and one part Rosie herself. Soar on over solo, but also consider bringing the family.