The staff at Not Your Typical Deli (NYTD) seems a bit out-of-sorts. Rather than behaving like they’re punching the clock for the foodservice industry, they greet you, take your order, and deliver you a taste of Italy, via Cleveland/Chicago style, as if you’re extended family attending Sunday dinner. They seem to glow and bask in their work! Credit owner and founder W Rieth for applying the values of his ancestry to both the food and the people around him at NYTD. The Deli is a family-owned business run by W, his wife, and their business partners, Chuck and Pam DePalma.
First-time customers flock to NYTD because they’ve heard and read about Rieth providing 12 weeks of training and full-time employment for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Rieth and his staff want you to come back again and again because the food and service are old-school great!
Looking more like a Hell’s Angel biker you don’t want to see your daughter bring home for dinner, Rieth, whose given first name is truly W, espouses business principles that combine the best of Jack Welch and Stephen Covey, with the heartfelt touch of Mother Theresa. Rieth was raised in a German-Italian home in the Cleveland suburbs.
He would develop three deep passions as a young man in the busy home, with frequent extended family dinners and influential relatives: music, cooking, and compassion. That foundation supports Rieth’s implementation of training employees—many deeply impacted by Autism and other disabilities, and Reith’s employees pay him back by being dedicated, excellent employees with whom the customers enjoy their experience.
Rieth’s transition from the family kitchen of immigrants to the East Valley wasn’t direct. His love of music would send him on a nearly 10-year journey, performing as the lead singer for his band with members of Parliament Funkadelic. Fame on the music stage would never be met for W, and the concert touring would be edged out by one of his other passions—cooking.
The suburban youth home of Rieth included not only W, his parents, and sister, but also his grandparents, other relatives, and friends that were welcomed at the table as if they were family. It was a Hollywood-scripted scene from a large Mafia family dinner, without the criminal element, but with the joking, yelling, chaos, and of course, the old-school recipes from the Italian motherland.
As a 12-year-old, Rieth landed his first after-school job, working in Cleveland’s famous New York Spaghetti House, and learning the ins and outs of running one of the world’s most famous restaurants. After work, his Great Grandmother Jenny and Grandmother Josephine taught Rieth how to cook, sharing recipes and tips from their Italian homeland.
Rieth doesn’t hide his many tattoos, and, coupled with his size, one might assume as he walks into NYTD that he is there to rob it, not give his staff a hug and see where he can help them. But a giant Teddy Bear is what Rieth projects when he greets his staff and customers. Caring and concerned about their day and how he can make it better, he leads his staff by example.
Success in the restaurant business seemed to be the final chapter in his life, but Rieth had one more passion he hadn’t given the attention like he had with music and cooking: compassion for others with disabilities.
Rieth’s Great Aunt Rosie had been born at home, and the midwife had erred severely, consequently, Rosie was unable to talk or walk. W’s Great Grandma Jenny and Grandmother Josephine loved and cared for Rosie.
Caring for Rosie was simply not enough for the Rieth family. They loved her and made her an integral part of those large family gatherings. They even adopted Nicky, the same age as Rosie and also severely disabled, to their family home. Rieth fondly remembers the love of his family for Nicky and Rosie, the long “conversations” with Rosie, which consisted of her only true form of communicating with young W—looking up for yes, and down for no.
Rieth plans to continue implementing his old-school family values as NYTD expands from two delis to add a cooking school, coffee roaster, and full-service bakery by the end of summer.
W looks at his staff today—most meeting society’s definition of ‘disabled’, and he doesn’t see the imperfections. He sees them as family.
words Steele Ferraro
photography Isaac Bailey