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Virginia Beach 5th graders make unlikely connection with Pennsylvania deli 400 miles away

A little bit of curiosity connected a group of 5th-grader students in Virginia Beach to a deli seven hours away in Pennsylvania.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A little bit of curiosity connected a group of 5th graders in Virginia Beach to a deli seven hours away in Pennsylvania.

It all started with a "9th Street Deli" menu Birdneck Elementary School math coach Jo Ann Coauette has used to teach decimals for 13 years.

“We don’t remember where we found it or how we got it,” said Coauette.

Believing it may have been a math worksheet, Coauette never questioned whether the menu or the "Indiana, Pennsylvania" deli featured on it, was real.

But this year, a particularly curious group of students just couldn’t let it go.

“They kept bugging me and asking me if it’s real,” said Coauette. “So, I whipped out my cell phone, called the number on the menu and someone answers, ‘9th Street Deli, can I help you?’”

The deli is, in fact, a real place. And co-owner Josh Muscatello was delighted by the call.

“She explained to me she had a menu from what could be more than a decade old,” said Muscatello.

According to Muscatello, the previous owner of the deli had ties to Hampton Roads, and that may have been the reason the menu ended up in Virginia Beach.

A few months after the phone call,  Muscatello found himself in the halls of Birdneck Elementary School.

After hearing 5th-grade students were learning real-world math from his menu, he knew had to make a surprise visit.

“I knew the kids would be so excited and happy to see someone from seven hours away come down and partner with them,” said Muscatello.

Muscatello brought school supply boxes for the entire class, and he even stayed to teach an entire lesson using a new, updated menu.

“Couldn’t have asked for any better,” said Coauette.

Over Italian subs brought straight from the deli in Indiana, Pennsylvania, the entire group closed the case of the mysterious menu, while celebrating the bigger lesson learned along the way: a little bit of curiosity can turn distant strangers into friends.

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