The walls of Giusti’s Place were covered with autographed photos from the likes of Ronald Reagan, Jay Leno and Mickey Mantle, plus 1,500 baseball caps hanging from the ceiling. (Photos by Steve Martarano)

Remembering a Century of History at Giusti’s Place

Back Web Only Sep 10, 2021 By Steve Martarano

Editor’s note: Delta restaurant Giusti’s Place was to be featured in our October issue as the subject of Comstock’s recurring Off the Beaten Track column. Last night (Thursday, Sept. 9), the much-beloved restaurant burned to the ground, taking a century’s worth of memories with it. Comstock’s has chosen to run an edited version of our original story here, in tribute to one of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s favorite gathering spots.


Giusti’s Place in Walnut Grove, whether reached by vehicle or by a short walk from the nearby boat dock, was a must-stop for visitors to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region for over 100 years. 

Giusti’s, in its fourth generation of family ownership, had called the historic Miller Ferry Saloon building in Walnut Grove its home since 1912. Visitors were drawn to the restaurant’s classic Italian American menu offering lunches and three-course dinners, all served with a bowl of minestrone soup. The bar and restaurant were a sight to see, with walls covered with autographed photos from the likes of Ronald Reagan, Jay Leno and Mickey Mantle, plus 1,500 baseball caps hanging from the ceiling.

Giusti’s, in its fourth generation of family ownership, had called the historic Miller Ferry Saloon building in Walnut Grove its home since 1912.

Giusti’s rustic river charm gained national attention in 2009 when it was featured in a Food Network episode of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”

“It can be like a country club here at lunch time, with all the regulars coming in, sitting and mingling at the bar,” said Mark Morais, who ran Giusti’s Place with his wife, Linda Morais, their three children and 20 employees.

One of those regulars having lunch at the bar on a recent weekday afternoon was local architect Gilbert Labrie, who said he first visited Giusti’s in 1962. John Baranek, another local, said he came in four days a week for lunch. “I like the consistency of the food and the camaraderie,” Baranek said.

Giusti’s Place moved into its current location when the property was obtained by Morais’ grandfather, Egisto Giusti, who had emigrated from Italy with his brothers in 1900. Giusti’s was originally two structures, with one building in the back serving as the family home. The front building, where the bar and restaurant were, housed a saloon, general store and a ferry toll station.

Mark Morais ran Giusti’s Place with his wife, Linda Morais, their three children and 20 employees.

“They lived in the back and that was their home,” Morais said of his grandparents Egisto and Irene. “My grandfather’s cousin was a chef living downstairs and they would take in the local workers and friends and feed them, and that’s basically how the restaurant got started.” Giusti’s didn’t actually start charging for meals until around 1940, Morais said.

Mark’s parents, Moe and Dolores Morais, took over Giusti’s in 1950. Mark Morais worked there growing up as a cook and bartender before finishing college in 1972 at Santa Clara University. After college, Morais continued to work the bar and took it over after his father opened a liquor store in Walnut Grove. Morais’ children have all worked at Giusti’s, with his youngest, Matt Morais, most recently running bar operations, while daughter Katie Haman worked part time hiring employees and as a food server.

Giusti’s Place was known for giving back to the community, having donated to local Delta-area elementary and high schools, churches and volunteer fire departments.

Giusti’s Place was known for giving back to the community, having donated to local Delta-area elementary and high schools, churches and volunteer fire departments, and one year auctioned off autographed memorabilia from Oakland Raiders favorites including Ken Stabler and Ted Hendricks to support the athletic programs at Rio Vista High School and Delta High school. Recently, in August, state Senator Bill Dodd, whose district includes part of Sacramento County, named Giusti’s Place Sacramento County Small Business of the year. 

“Mark and his family have really made a difference,” the senator said in a press release. “I applaud their many community contributions over more than a century. It’s a remarkable achievement. Small businesses like Giusti’s help make our towns special — and we must always support them.” 

Get all our web exclusives in your mailbox every week: Sign up for the Comstock’s newsletter today!

Comments

Glynese (not verified)September 10, 2021 - 10:11am

Sorry to hear that your place went down today. I do remember pulling up at your establishment on a motorcycle, coming in and seeing all of the baseball caps on the ceiling. The at least I thought so, 7 course meal!

Dick Alexander (not verified)September 15, 2021 - 2:13pm

What a loss. My wife "discovered" Your wonderful restaurant about 3 years ago when we move to Walnut Grove. You were our go to Place for lunches and take-out dinners. We will definitely miss you.

Rose & skip Kittle (not verified)September 21, 2021 - 8:41am

What a wonderful place to relax and enjoy great food and good conversation. Mark and his wife and crew are the best and I respect them for all the many years of good food and great hospitality. Bless them.

Post new comment

79258495004733 » If you have a visual disability, please type the numbers two one three three into the box. Your submission will be promptly reviewed by a validation service and sent to the site administrators.
By proving you are not a machine, you help us prevent spam and keep the site secure.

Recommended For You

Photos: Organized Baseball Returns to the Capital Region

The Lincoln Potters play in historic McBean Stadium in downtown Lincoln, and the wood-bat California Collegiate League team averaged almost 1,000 fans per game during the 2019 season. This year, the Potters are just happy to be playing, even if fans aren’t allowed.

Jul 7, 2020 Steve Martarano