Ggiata sandwiches become a hit thanks to memes and viral videos


(L-R) Ggiata cofounders Max Bahramipour, Noah Holton-Raphael, Jack Biebel, and social media manager Maddy Biebel pose on the patio of their Melrose Hill location. Photo by Kelsey Ngante.

In a TikTok video, t-shirt and baseball cap-wearing Jack Biebel assembles a Caprese sandwich while an off-camera woman directs him with a stream of picky, contradictory instructions. Biebel keeps flashing his blue eyes at the camera instead of focusing on the sandwich.

“Look at the bread. It’s your baby … like you’re tucking it in to go to bed,” the director commands.

That video – which has 4.4 million views on TikTok  – is an ad for local LA sandwich shop Ggiata.

Today’s digital marketing landscape is crowded. Tapping into social media means wading through a sea of targeted ads, leaving users with questions like “when did my dentist’s office make an Instagram account?” or “how did TikTok know I wanted to buy that?” 

As it gets harder for brands to stand out online, many are leaning into quirky, informal strategies to distinguish themselves. 

And Ggiata is upping the ante by using memes, thirst traps, and viral videos to sell their New Jersey-style sandwiches. The company launched in 2020 as delivery-only, then introduced a brick-and-mortar location in Melrose Hill in 2021.

In another video — which has 191,000 views — co-founders Jack Biebel, Noah Holton-Raphael, and Max Bahramipour dance across the screen while the caption says, “She’s probably talking to other guys … but not ones who own a deli-grade meat slicer.”

A quick search of the restaurant on TikTok or Instagram will send you down a rabbit hole of similarly zany videos with thousands of likes and views, including a shout-out from actor Jon Hamm promoting his own Ggiata “Hamm” sandwich. 

Holton-Raphael and Bahramipour say viewers love when they get a little flirty in their videos. “All the thirst trap videos of Jack are hilarious because he became a TikTok heartthrob,” says Holton-Raphael.  

“He’s like the Justin Bieber of deli sandwiches,” adds Bahramipour.

Since social media manager Maddy Biebel is Jack Biebel’s younger sister, she says some of the content creation can get a little awkward. 

“It's been really interesting for me to have to make this content of my brother and [know] what I'm gonna get in the comment section … like the kinds of DMs that I'm gonna get about my brother,” she says.

Jack Biebel says the social strategy has been essential for business. 

“Probably one of the biggest changes in restaurant marketing in the last 10 years has been how front and center [social media] has become. Now you're shocked if a restaurant doesn't have an Instagram or TikTok or YouTube,” says Biebel.

It seems to be working. 

In the four years since they’ve opened, Ggiata has expanded to three locations across LA. They’re about to open a fourth. 

At the Venice Beach location, the lunch rush can feel like an episode of FX’s The Bear, with tons of white sandwich bags spread across their deli counters.

Ggiata’s ambiance is somewhere between a streetwear clothing pop-up and a meme-ified Sopranos-esque Italian American deli experience. 

KCRW asked customers how they found out about the place.

“I saw it on TikTok,” said one woman eating a sandwich on the patio.

“I looked up the best chicken Caesar wrap in LA and a bunch of this place came up. People’s TikToks came up,” said another. 

Brands are getting wacky online because it works, says Kristen Schiele, a professor at USC Business School: “We definitely are seeing a rise in brands that are trying to have an eccentric personality, especially on social media. … Sometimes [it] appears a little bit unhinged.” 

Schiele says that the traditional, sorta-funny advertising tactics you’d find in a Super Bowl ad don’t resonate with millennials and Gen Z. Instead, digital marketing should mimic the content users would find from people they actually follow.

“Most people in the demographic don't even have cable anymore. … They go to social media for all their entertainment,” says Schiele. “So with the entertainment value with these cheeky unhinged posts, that's where [brands are] trying to become more like a friend.”

Ggiata’s friendly memes are bringing people in the door, but will they come back for the food? 

“Definitely, for sure. It’s really good,” said a young woman dining at the Venice Beach location.

Reviewers agree. The LA Times, The Infatuation, Eater LA, TikTok, Instagram and more consistently rank it among the best sandwich shops in LA. If you search “Ggiata” on Apple Maps it’ll appear on two different eat-your-way-through-LA guides. 

Holton-Raphael says that the desire to run the restaurant comes from recreating the foods of their childhoods.

“That chicken Caesar wrap — for anybody that grew up on the East Coast — is such a nostalgic sandwich. You find that on virtually every menu, from  the neighborhood Italian deli, to the bodega, to the local cafe,” says Holton-Raphael.

Jack Biebel adds that despite the Internet stardom, Ggiata’s food comes first: “We have homemade pomodoro sauce every morning. … And the bread we're getting from Jyan Isaac, we think is the best-seasoned baguette in LA. For all those reasons, people love it.”



Kelsey Ngante