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'Rib-Sticking Fare' Makes Its Way Down the Shore

August 31, 2011 By:
Carin M. Smilk, JE Feature
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Israelis (from left) Eli Khalili, Or Lallouz and Nerya Najjar, who had just come to the Atlantic City area for a visit and needed something to eat first. Photos by Carin M. Smilk

August came and went with some unexpected surprises down the shore -- an earthquake, a hurricane and, maybe equally as groundbreaking, a glatt-kosher deli.

Shalom Pita -- opened in May 2010 in Ventnor, N.J., as a kosher falafel and pizza place -- took a new turn after Tisha B'Av this year, when it went from dairy to meat. While falafel is still being served, now the menu offers corned beef, pastrami, grilled chicken, a schnitzel sub, hot dogs and burgers, among other rib-sticking fare.

For years, the only options for observant diners in the area were the Jerusalem Glatt Kosher Restaurant, a sit-down eatery in Ventnor that cooks up Middle Eastern dishes, and Shari's Steakhouse, a pricier option in Egg Harbor Township that closed last year.

Then, this summer saw the rise of two new kosher dairy pizza places in Ventnor: Aroma, which is run by the Jerusalem restaurant; and Bubbies Bistro.

"I'm proud to say I think we started a trend," said Shalom Pita's owner, Yosef "Yossi" Rapoport, 28, who grew up in Atlantic City, Ventnor and Margate, N.J.

While he said the restaurant was doing fine as a dairy choice and that they had finally perfected their pizzas, "there's more of a demand for meat. People wanted to get food, but there was no option for kosher takeout."

The closest thing, he said, was going to nearby Casel's supermarket in Margate to pick up some sliced deli meat, and then make sandwiches at home.

It took days to convert the eatery from dairy to meat. Rapoport explained that they had to remove all the food, and the plastic and glass; scrub the place down; and buy a new grill and deep fryer. Then, a rabbi was brought in from Lakewood, N.J., to kasher anything that was solid metal with a blow torch. There is a full-time mashgiach on the premises, which has certification from the Orthodox Vaad Harabanim and Vaad Hakashruth of Atlantic County, N.J.

Rapoport acknowledged that business is much bigger during the summer, as locals purchase sandwiches, potato salad, knishes and other classic Jewish items for visitors to eat over Shabbat. He said the restaurant delivers to the beach in Ventnor and Margate, and does some convention and casino meal preparation for guests in Atlantic City.

Two weeks ago, he was commissioned to fill a sandwich order for 100 people from the New York area going on a whale-watching tour in Cape May, N.J.

The restaurant can be viewed somewhat as a family affair. Rapoport makes what he calls "gourmet" challahs based on his mother's recipe that are preordered for Shabbat. Some of his sisters whip up kugels that are sold during the week. His father, Shmuel Rapoport, runs Chabad Lubavitch of Atlantic County, and an older brother -- he comes from a family of 14 -- runs Chabad in Ventnor.

On a recent Friday afternoon, a young couple in their late 20s was relishing a late lunch, seated at the only table inside. Sam Zitin, originally from Lower Merion but now living in Indianapolis, was digging into a barbecue grilled chicken sub (he put the barbecue sauce on, he noted), while his wife, Jackie, a California native, was trying to make her way through mounds of cold turkey (she wound up taking half the sandwich home).

Newly observant and visiting Sam's relatives in Margate, they said they were happy about the chance to eat out, especially because they had just taken a stroll on the boardwalk and couldn't have anything there.

"The portion sizes are fabulous," said Jackie. Her husband added that the seasoned fries were incredible: "Fries are tough to do; that's what makes the place. These are East Coast fries -- you can't buy these in the Midwest."

A short time later, three Israelis -- Nerya Najjar, Or Lallouz and Eli Khalili, all in their late teens -- wandered in for a bite. They had just arrived in town and chose sitting down for a quick meal before even checking out the beach. They seemed surprised to know that the restaurant had just started offering meat and, as they put some coins in a tzedakah box next to the cash register, even more surprised that there were so few kosher choices in a place where so many Jewish people resided.

Rapoport saw the flip side of that viewpoint. Growing up, he said, he always ate at home. Now, "we're becoming a restaurant destination."

 

Shore-Side Kosher Restaurants

Shalom Pita 
6514 Ventnor Ave. 
Ventnor, N.J. 08406 
609-385-4785 
www.shalomkosherac.com

Bubbies Bistro 
5204 Ventnor Avenue 
Ventnor, N.J. 08406 
609-822-7200 
www.bubbiesbistro.com

Aroma 
6414 Ventnor Ave. 
Ventnor, N.J. 08406 
609-822-4111

Jerusalem Glatt Kosher Restaurant 
6410 Ventnor Ave. 
Ventnor, N.J. 08406 
609-822-2266

All are closed on Shabbat.

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