When Josh Malik's customers at Monroe Market asked him how he was doing, the smiling delicatessen always replied, "I'm livin' the dream!" But after a 13-year run, his business was ready to close its doors for good.
Seated at a table with Linda Angelo on Tuesday afternoon, Malik said, "I was closing down when I found that lady," gesturing toward Angelo, "and she said, 'There's a place open here.'"
Angelo had been manager of Fratello's at 115 Main Street for three years but the owners, Jason and Krista Derienzo, were leaving the deli/catering business and Angelo needed a partner to keep it going.
Malik agreed to join forces with Angelo and Isabella's Deli was born.
"This is the best thing that ever happened to us," Malik said. "It's a marriage made in Heaven."
Isabella's, which opened on June 1, was named after Malik's 12-year-old niece.
Angelo said both menus are being used, so fans of Fratello's signature sandwiches like The Godfather and the Bronx Bomber can still get them at Isabella's. Monroe Market's Triple-Decker Roast Beef and lineup of breakfast sandwiches also live on.
"He's famous for breakfast," Angelo said of Malik. "I call him 'The Breakfast King'."
Like Fratello's, Isabella's offers a catering business and hot dinners to go.
"She's a good Italian cook," Malik said of Angelo. "She's famous with the home cooking!"
Lisa Funicello helps Angelo and Malik in running Isabella's.
Angelo said, "Everybody's happy we're still here and he's here ... two places combined."