By Ariana Fine, Shalom New Haven Editor
Kosher eating and shopping in the Greater New Haven area took a hit in the last two years with the closing of Westville Kosher Market and, recently, Abel Caterers after their combined decades of serving the local community. We are grateful to them for so many years of providing kosher fare to the Jewish community. While local supermarkets see the opportunity to expand their kosher offerings, we are also excited to see new kosher eating establishments open up in the area alongside other long-standing restaurants. The two newest additions are Ladle & Loaf and Fin and Scale.
“For over 45 years, one Abel family member or another has been providing kosher catering services in the tri-state area…This decision comes with much sadness but also with many wonderful memories of sharing in your simchas and your lives. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with and for the Jewish community,” Meredith Abel-Berei, owner of Abel Caterers, said in a public announcement about the business closing on December 11, 2020.
“Abel’s Caterers has been part of our family of families for decades and it’s hard to imagine a future without them. We are incredibly grateful for the partnership, creativity, kindness, philanthropy and imagination that Abel’s has provided through the years,” says Judy Alperin, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven.
With over 150 families in the Greater New Haven area seeking higher kosher certifications, Ephrat and Benny Lieblich saw an opportunity to launch Ladle & Loaf (ladle-loaf.square.site), which offers Middle Eastern fusion food. The chef and owners of The Gusto Kitchen, they will offer staples at Ladle & Loaf such as shawarma, sabich and falafel. The menu will include soups—such as shorba (Moroccan) and marak temani (Yemenite)—harira, gluten-free options, salads and many vegetarian items, Ephrat says. There is definitely a need as at least 100 families would not eat anything but Lubavitcher shechita, she explains.
Offering more local kosher dining options runs in the family. Ephrat Lieblich’s cousin is Choni Grunblatt, the chef and owner of a soon-to-open kosher sushi restaurant. In addition to inside dining on Whalley Avenue, Fin & Scale (instagram.com/finandscalect) will offer takeout and delivery, his wife and co-owner Esther Grunblatt says. The menu, which will stay true to the Japanese method of sushi, will include salmon, tuna, yellowtail and other staples at the beginning with the menu set to expand to other exciting options. In addition to soups and salads, the restaurant will offer a full liquor bar and Italian coffee to complement the dining experience.
“I believe we will appeal to the greater public in general; the fact that we will accomplish that and be kosher is phenomenal. It is really exciting for us to be doing it,” says Choni.
Claire's Corner Copia (clairescornercopia.com), located in downtown New Haven, is certified dairy kosher by the Vaad Hakashrus of Fairfield County. Every item in the 35-year-old vegetarian establishment is kosher, explains Claire Criscuolo, RN. She and her husband, Frank Criscuolo, opened the restaurant on September 17, 1975. They have fun with their food, like offering a different kind of latke for each day of Hanukkah, she says. Since the pandemic began, Claire's has invested thousands in dollars in safety for customers, including adding HEPA filter air purifiers, upgrading HVAC filters, and installing ION generators on HVAC compressors and fans.
There are some regional options families are mainly using for shopping, the Lieblichs say; but they are hoping to have more local, daily shopping possibilities. Currently, there are biweekly meat deliveries and a Wednesday marketplace from New York as well as Judaica and modest clothing delivered on Thursdays. For those that keep strictly kosher, the need for kosher food is daily, agrees Esther Glunblatt.
One of the supermarkets that has been quite responsive is Shoprite in Hamden. The location carries close to 1,000 different kosher food SKUs, including fresh chicken, seafood and meat; dairy items; and frozen food. Beigels kosher bread and cake items, and even kosher baby formula, are some of the dry grocery products available. They work with the Greater New Haven community to meet their kosher needs. Employees travel to Brooklyn every Thursday to truck in kosher items with higher certifications to the centrally located Hamden store, says Harry Garafalo, owner of Garafalo Markets, which owns seven stores in Connecticut. The Hamden store’s list of kosher brands includes Shor Habor, Meal Mart, Aaron’s Gourmet Emporium, Empire, Jack's Gourmet and OF-TOV, states Ronald Lano, the Hamden location’s assistant store manager. Fresh kosher seafood offerings include salmon, steel head trout, cod, flounder and tilapia. As the store continues to expand their offerings, Lano asks the community to reach out to him with additional product requests.
For those shopping for OU and OK kosher labels, they can shop Shoprite’s many kosher items, which includes some on company’s private label. Other area supermarkets with these kosher labels include Big Y and Stop & Shop, among other markets.
Community members such as Justin Lazarus, a junior at Southern Connecticut State University, are also approaching other shopping locations to push for more affordable kosher food. He has been trying to persuade store and regional management about consumer interest in having additional kosher products at the Milford Costco location. Lazarus says there are three important things needed in order to have sustainable local kosher establishments: make sure the kosher level is high enough so everyone can eat it, make it affordable with bulk buying and weekly deals, and include really good customer service.
“We must work together. It is not just Orthodox/Chabad and Conservative/Reform; we are a Jewish community no matter what level of religion or kosher observance you are,” Lazarus implores. “So we must build it.”
And that is what is happening in the Greater New Haven area as more kosher options become available at local restaurants and markets.