If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me why we didn’t open up a kosher pizza place somewhere in Palo Alto or San Jose, I’d be a rich man. Not a shabbos goes by when someone doesn’t ask for pizza, as if this was the one thing missing from the Bay Area becoming a place on the map for Orthodox Jews. The lack of many schools, yeshivas, mikvah’s, kosher markets (2 for an area with half a million Jews) and eruvim, doesn’t seem to bother people as much as the lack of kosher pizza. Pizza is a sort of unifying thing, I have a theory that the reason people don’t mind the fact that my shul ends shabbos 30 minutes later than everyone else in the world is because there is no kosher pizza to rush off to. Yes, you can go to the bagel store and get pizza, but it’s not a pizza store and it’s not open at night.
The reason I tell you all this is because we recently did a kosher pizza popup restaurant (read more about popup restaurants) in Berkeley. The Rabbi over at Congregation Beth Israel is one of the more forward thinking fellows who likes to run with things, I’ve noticed that when people ask me to open a pizza store, it rarely goes beyond the laziness of complaining for lack of one. The Rabbi over in Berkeley, literally organized this thing with Epic Bites real quickly. He opened up his shul and allowed us to come in and take it over for a day.
We set up 6 pizza ovens in their kiddush area, which is outside, the tables were covered in red and white checkered tablecloths, and we even bought a brand new oven for all of the cholov yisrael keeping folks who planned on showing up (chabad seems to love our food and they show up in force at our popup events) I can’t say these events bring in a ton of cash, but the chef likes to say that kosher food is one of the fundamentals of bringing the Jewish community together, he’s big on community building and the 350 people that showed up from as far away as San Jose can attest to the achdus that took place as old friends and new came together to enjoy a slice of pizza or some fried mac and cheese. Family style seating kind of forces people to make new friends and play Jewish geography.
Besides for selling thin crust slightly charred pizza (the real deal if you ask me) we sold some amazing fried foods like fried mac and cheese squares, and fried risotto and smoked mozzarella balls. We had cholov yisrael Caesar Salad, kitchen sink blondies (our specialty featuring 4 kinds of chocolate, pretzels, cherries, and toffee) and of course some very pricey truffle covered pizza.
The event was such a big deal because pizza is the big unifier around these parts. I know people who will literally drive to Los Angeles for a slice of pizza and Chinese food, because sometimes Jews just want to feel normal. I’m not sure if I can give over the torture of having to walk in San Fransisco past some of the best food in the country and suffer with the knowledge that the closest place I can sit outdoors and enjoy kosher food is 400 miles away. For those who eat Vegan out it may be eased slightly, but I don’t think it really helps all that much. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a chabad shaliach keeping cholov yisrael in a place that doesn’t even have kosher cholov stam.
We hope to do more kosher popups around the Bay Area, stay tuned to this blog and our facebook page for updates.