Marcello De Feo grew up in a South Philly Italian household. His mother, Santa Bianca, came to America from Abruzzo when she was a teenager. “I’m first-generation Italian,” De Feo says. “My Nonna lived with us from when I was born.”
Looking back, she looms large in his food memories. Each day, Nonna Paola would pack his school lunches. “I didn’t realize how spoiled I was. I’d go to school and my lunch was this amazing roll with things like Parmigiano-Reggiano and soppressata with balsamic vinegar.” Not bad for lunchbox fare, but there was a catch. “Some of the other kids would stare at it…and you get to that awkward age when you feel uncomfortable.”
The young De Feo went home and made a request. He wanted an American lunch, just like the other kids had. “The next day, I open up my lunch at school and it’s two pieces of white bread with microwaved Cheez Whiz in the middle,” he laughs. “I was like: ‘Alright, Nonna. Well played. Well played.’”
Given these roots, the fact that he would one day run Cilento Sandwich Co. in Haddonfield—a take-out spot known for stellar cheesesteaks—could seem like destiny.