Born in the Italian province of Alessandria in 1868, Giovanni Battista Ratto sailed as a cabin boy on a schooner to Buenos Aires when he was just 13 years old. After some time, the Bay area appealed to Ratto and he moved once again. There, he met a prominent produce farmer who took him under his wing and gave him a job. Eventually, he married and had four daughters and a son.
Ratto went on to open the Colombo Bakery in Oakland. After running the business with his co-founders for seven years, Ratto bought and ran a retail food store on lower Washington St. in the same neighborhood. Right from the opening of the store, Ratto brought in international items to differentiate his store from the other run-of-the-mill grocers that lined the streets of Oakland.
Ratto’s decision to import items from all over the world proved a huge success. This international delicatessen and grocery has been run in the same location for over 110 years by the same family. It has survived the Great Depression, a four-alarm fire in the 1970s, and a 7.1 magnitude earthquake the following decade.
Know Before You Go
G.B. Ratto’s Market & Deli is located at 821 Washington St. in the heart of downtown Oakland, California, just a few blocks from the Oakland City Center BART station.