New deli on horizon

Ben Poremba, at left, and his father, Jacob Poremba, at Olio restaurant last week. The senior Poremba was visiting from Israel.

Ellen Futterman, Editor

New deli on horizon

By now many of you have probably heard that local restaurateur and Israeli native Ben Poremba (of Elaia, Olio, Parigi and co-owner of La Patisserie Chouquette) plans to open a Jewish-style deli in St. Louis, hopefully by July 2017. He plans to call it AO&CO, combining the first initials of his children’s names; “A” for his 5-month-old daughter Aviv and “O” for 4-year-old son Omri, along with his business partners (Erik Karanik and Alexis Cosse’s) child’s name, Cossette.

As for location, Poremba said he is currently looking at both the Central West End and Clayton/University City. “I have five spots picked out,” he said when we got together last week at his Botanical Heights restaurant, Olio. “I’ve just got to narrow it down and figure where I can get the best deal.”

Poremba isn’t sure whether the deli would be just counter service, or if there would be tables and a wait staff, or some combination, explaining, “the space will likely dictate that.” But one thing he is not ruling out: kosher. 

 “If I could do kosher without much headache and operational nightmares, without having to go through too many logistical issues, I’ll do it,” he said.

To test the concept, Poremba is doing a pop-up deli at Parigi, his Italian restaurant in Clayton, on Sunday, Nov. 20. He plans to serve a brunch-type menu of appetizing featuring cured and smoked fish, herring, bagels and schmear as well as what he calls “the smaltzing part,” which includes mile-high brisket sandwiches, hard salami and eggs and chicken schnitzel sandwiches. Once the deli is up and running, other staples will include matzah ball soup, stuffed cabbage and pickled tongue; the bagels, he adds, will be made either on site or at a nearby commissary.

But before you start salivating, the brunch is sold-out. Poremba said he might host other events related to the deli in the future.

 “There is nothing like this concept in St. Louis,” said Poremba. “There’s Protzel’s and Pumpernickles and they are great but at one time St. Louis had dozens and dozens of delis,” said Poremba. “We want to do something that’s more contemporary, hip and attract not just Jews or people from New York but everybody.”

Meanwhile, this week Poremba is launching a higher-end Mexican restaurant called Nixta ( in the Botanical Heights storefront (1621 Tower Grove Ave.) that housed his Old Standard Fried Chicken place from 2014 until it closed in July. The menu includes sea scallops with smoked aguachile, tuna tostadas, sturgeon fajitas and a whole roasted saddle of lamb that is meant to be shared. Beginning Nov. 11, Nixta will be opened for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturdays and stay open until midnight Thursdays through Saturdays with live music and a late- night menu.

When asked if he’s concerned about overextending himself, Poremba laughed and said “of course.” Then he added: “The trick is to have a good team and people around you who know what they’re doing so you can delegate. All of our restaurants are different concepts; we’re not replicating the same thing. We’re not just opening concepts because they sound right but rather  they fill a culinary gap in the vibrant St. Louis restaurant scene and we found the right people to run them.”

Loving “Loving”

Although not specifically Jewish in content, the compelling new film “Loving,” which opens in St. Louis on Friday, tells the story of a white man named Richard Loving and a black woman named Mildred Jeter who were married in Washington, D.C. in 1958 but then arrested when they came back to their home state of Virginia because interracial marriage was illegal there (as it was in 24 states at the time).

The couple was given a choice to either spent a year in prison or have the sentence suspended if they leave the state. They chose the later, but after several years of missing their families in Virginia, Mildred wrote a letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who referred their case to the D.C.-area chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a novice Jewish lawyer named Bernard Cohen. 

Eventually, Cohen argued Loving v. Virginia before the U.S. Supreme Court, which led to its unanimous 1967 landmark decision that overturned all previous state laws banning interracial marriage. In a recent interview with Tablet magazine, Cohen said, “public interest didn’t manifest itself greatly back then,” and there wasn’t much public attention given to the case. However, he said it became “a topic of concern when the issue of gay marriage came to the forefront.” 

The magazine noted that in 2007, Cohen co-authored an article for Huffington Post comparing the legal battles of the LGBT community to those he had fought in, writing: “Hopefully, legislators and judges will find their courage, and our nation won’t need too many lawyers working too much longer on behalf of too many couples and their kids before we end ongoing marriage discrimination.”

“Loving” is an understated, thoroughly moving civil rights drama, with stellar performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving, who serve as the film’s heart and soul.  Do yourself a favor and go see it.

Mini-plays pay tribute to Orlando massacre

At 7:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14, at the Kranzberg Arts Center in Grand Center, That Uppity Theatre Company and St. Lou Fringe, in association with Missing Bolts Productions Inc. and No Passport Theatre Alliance, will present excerpts from a collection of three-minute plays specifically written in response to the June 12 massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla. that took the lives of 49 LGBTQ people. Playwrights who works are part of the event, entitled “After Orlando,” come from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Africa. Throughout the fall, “After Orlando” is being read across the country and in the U.K. at over 75 venues. The St. Louis version will include an interactive panel discussion with community leaders. Participants include representatives from the Diversity Awareness Partnership, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Metropolitan Community Church and Central Reform Congregation. The performance is free, but reservations are strongly suggest using Eventbrite: