I sat at my kitchen table, a gorgeous mid-century piece of trash. Its exquisite golden pearloid top reflected the light spilling from the many skylights installed in my vaulted kitchen ceiling. It illuminated my strikingly handsome chins.

The kitchen is the only room in my vast estate that has vaulted ceilings. It’s where I spend most of my time while at home. It’s where I sing opera. It’s where I practice the trampoline. It’s where I have my hissy fits. It’s where I cook and bon vivant.

I patiently waited for Mr. Harada to finish his morning yoga (trying to climb down from the top level of our bunk bed while hungover). I had prepared our traditional breakfast: couilles de mouton. It’s a French delicacy which we enjoy often with a few bottles of Pol Roger champagne. For us, it’s a reasonable way to start the day.

By the time Mr. Harada arrived at the table, our couilles had gone cold. I don’t tolerate cold (bleu) couilles. We considered our alternatives. After unfurling our map of Santa Clara Valley, we quickly came to a consensus, zeroing in on the fabled intersection of Auzerais Avenue and Los Gatos Creek. Location: Paradiso’s Deli.

I first visited Paradiso’s nearly 20 years ago. Back in those days, I was moonlighting as a residential handyman to maintain my Herculean physique while putting some coin into my many pockets (cargo pant fashion was at its peak). A good friend of mine had purchased a bungalow in Willow Glen and was renovating the property for a revered jazz critic, who demanded the highest attention to detail. For the work, I was bonused one Paradiso meatball sandwich.

My chins trembled with felicity as I recalled the moment I first meatballed at Paradiso’s. Those perfectly seasoned, buttery orbs, viciously drowned in sweet tomato sauce. The pillowy white roll—so soft and airy—had transmogrified into a savory-sweet bread pudding by the time I took my first bite. It was a murder scene of delight. This meat-baller was Goodfellas on a roll.

Mr. Harada and I strapped into our tandem kiteboard, unfurled the sail and sent it into the winter wind. In no time we lost our footing and were dragged over the vastly disrepaired streets of San Jose toward our destination. Our kite caught a tree limb on the banks of Los Gatos Creek, joining the many other pieces of rotting cloth that adorn our charming watershed. We let loose the bindings and proceeded toward our culinary destination.

To our surprise, Paradiso’s Deli had been reimagined as Palermo Restaurant. We knew Palermo from its previous home on Second Street. Renato and Diane Cusimano of Palermo have been a culinary force in this valley for more than three decades. We were gladdened to learn that this deeply rooted San Jose family was taking stewardship of the legendary deli.

We were greeted by the host and seated near the fireplace in the back. The dining area was refreshingly retro. It reminded me of a domicile I would have visited in the late ’80s or early ’90s somewhere off of Foxworthy or Curtner. Its residential decor and low ceilings transported me to a better time—back when skateboards were wider and young men and women took pride in cruising classic VW bugs with questionable reliability and rust holes in the floor; back when most of the people living on the South Side worked for IBM, and when downtown was still a glorious and vast wasteland.

Mr. Harada and I scanned the wine list first. It is numbered, so visitors aren’t burdened with remembering the name of the delicious vino they’ve imbibed. It is far more efficient and easy to tell a friend to try the No. 5 or No. 18. Mr. Harada had the No. 23, which I can assure you did not disappoint.

It was then, perusing the menu, that I discovered with delight that Palermo serves the Paradiso’s classic of my youth. Fate had smiled upon me yet again. As soon as I spotted the meatball sandwich, I was unable to recognize any other offerings. Tears of joy are difficult to read through.

Mr. Harada ordered a classic sandwich as well: The Italian.

The transformation from Paradiso’s to Palermo means a more refined dining experience. Paradiso’s was a working-man’s deli, while Palermo is a sit-down affair with a proper wait staff. Yet, due to its unique location, Palermo still feels like Paradiso’s and keeps true to an aesthetic that is hard to come by these days. So, visitors get to experience what a classic Santa Clara Valley Italian deli felt like a half century ago, while enjoying the luxury of table service.

My meatball sandwich arrived on a plate. It was presented as it deserves to be, with reverence and class, but I must say it took me by surprise. Although it was identical to the sandwich I first enjoyed almost two decades ago, I couldn’t shake the feeling of it being passed across a deli counter.

I closed my eyes, bit into the masterpiece, and for a perfect moment I was sitting in front of Paradiso’s deli, on the big red pipes in the parking lot. For a moment, it was late summer, I heard an old friend laugh, I remembered the hardware we still needed to get at Orchard Supply down the street, and I dreamt the dreams I once had. For a moment, Mr. Harada’s skateboard was grinding on the red pipes, and the Del Monte plant was a cannery for fruit, not people. I was filled with the delicious mania of nostalgia.

The moment seemed like it lasted decades. I emerged on the other end with a clownish tomato-sauce grin ringing my lips as Mr. Harada worked on the final bites of his Italian.