April 2014

JB’s: Restaurant, Delicatessen or Diner?

Sergio Nibbi

It took more than 60 years for a simple two-car garage tucked under an ordinary 17th Street apartment to morph into a well-known and highly successful neighborhood eatery. Along the way, the space hosted a series of businesses, including one involving my family.

In 1952, Marino Nibbi and his brother, Pete, bought the 1433 17th Street property, and installed their first carpentry shop in the garage. In a kind of precursor to the legendary garage launches of such high-tech companies as Hewlett-Packard and Apple, the space became a liftoff pad for what’s become a well-known and respected family business in the Bay Area: Nibbi Brothers. 

After a few years the two brothers had outgrown the garage. Palestro’s Hardware, named after a nice young hardware salesman, took over the space. The hardware store later made way for a delicatessen opened by two gentlemen, appropriately named “Under Construction.” In the 1970s an individual by the name of “John,” and whose last name, which started with a “B,” escapes me, opened what’s now JB’s. 

John operated the business until 1983, when the present owner, Nasser Nasrah, and his cousin, Naiel Nasrah, came in to help their uncle Abraham. Eventually, Nass and Naiel took over the business. In time Nass bought out his cousin, and to this day remains the owner, along with his lovely wife, Reem. 

Having learned the business from the ground up and using his family’s recipes, Nass expanded the business into the popular destination it is today. In addition to burgers, sandwiches, and salads, a variety of daily specials are offered. With the burgeoning commercial trade taking over the neighborhood, catering has been added to the daily lineup. 

Available at 5:30 a.m., the breakfast menu contains the usual ensemble of eggs, omelets, breakfast meats, and of course a hearty cup of “Joe” or a frothy espresso. Just before the 4 p.m. closing time school kids can be seen enjoying a late afternoon snack or an early start on dinner. I usually call ahead and order a cup of the cream of potato soup with bacon and the new panini on a freshly baked ciabatta roll. Still to be tried is the Nutella chocolate and banana sandwich; perhaps that qualifies as vegan. The food is great; the staff super friendly and of course don’t forget to pick up the latest issue of the View while you’re there. 

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