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WOLFIE'S Deli Closed in Miami Beach!!! :( April 01, 2008 5:25 AM

The best known Kosher Jewish Deli in all of South Florida closed after 54 years in the business!   

From the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel...

Good kosher deli a tough find in South Florida

By Michael Mayo
Used to be, a person could find a decent tongue sandwich just about anywhere in South Florida.

Now it's getting to the point where you're hard-pressed to find a place that knows its kasha from its kishke.

Delis keep dying.

I'm not talking sub shops or luncheonettes. I'm talking about real New York-style Jewish delis.

The kind of place where the counterman bristles while he works, and the waitresses know your regular order but never bother with your name.

The latest to kick the pickle bucket: Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House on Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles Beach.

After 54 years, the venerable institution closed on Sunday. The owners are planning to turn it into an upscale gourmet market.

I couldn't pay my respects for a final meal, but I did the next best thing on Monday.

I went to The Original Pastrami Club restaurant on University Drive in Lauderhill for a bowl of matzoh ball soup, a pastrami on rye and a trip back to the old country.

When I say the old country, I mean New York.

Beneath a mural of the Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island and the Lower East Side, patrons sipped Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda, dunked turkey sandwiches into Russian dressing and talked baseball.

"You see the paper today about the Marlins?" one man asked his lunchmate. "Their whole payroll is $21 million. Twenty-one million! That's one Yankee."

(Another reason why I love delis. People there still read newspapers.)

"Things are changing," said Sammy Siegel, 72, a former Brooklynite who now lives at Wynmoor in Coconut Creek. "But as long as there are Jews, there'll be delis."

The population in South Florida has gotten younger, more diverse and less New York-centric in the last few decades. Shifting demographics and tastes have taken a toll on landmark delis.

Gone is the original Pumpernik's across from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. So too is the original Wolfie's in South Beach, and a spinoff in Boca Raton.

The Deli Den on Stirling Road in Hollywood, where Joe DiMaggio used to lunch regularly, keeps going.

And then there's The Pastrami Club, which has been around since 1985 under three owners.

"It's all about the food," said Raad "Ray" Sakko, 37, who bought the place three years ago. "Even though the area has changed, there'll be a market for it if the food is good. You don't have to be Jewish to like deli."

Or to prepare it. Long-time chef Louis Renel Trezil is Haitian.

Sakko said the restaurant's clientele has changed along with the makeup of the central Broward corridor. He has steady customers from the Caribbean and South America. But most patrons are older ex-New Yorkers who live in nearby condos at Inverrary and Kings Point.

Sakko doesn't have the usual deli pedigree. He was born in Russia, grew up in Detroit and is only part Jewish. He previously owned a video store and didn't have any restaurant experience before buying The Pastrami Club.

Thanks to a dedicated staff and recipes passed down from previous owners Larry Lebin and Allen Marcus, the place remains authentic. The matzoh balls are fluffy, the cole slaw garlicky and the pastrami moist and fatty enough to warm (and clog) the hearts of loyal customers.

Sakko was behind the slicer making sandwiches on Monday.

"If you don't stay on top of things in this business, you're in trouble," Sakko said.

News of the Rascal House's demise hit some Pastrami Club customers hard.

"At my age, I have a hard time remembering yesterday, but I remember a lot of good meals at the Rascal House," said Bill Remes, 77, of Grand Rapids, Mich. "It was the place in the '60s and '70s."

Remes said he used to go for midnight corned-beef sandwiches after nights at Dania Jai-Alai.

Charles Perrillo, 92, said: "We used to have to wait on line to get in. But I went there about seven years ago and there were no lines, no wait."

I asked Perrillo, a Wynmoor resident who looks 20 years younger than his age, if pastrami was the secret to his longevity.

"If you want to live a long time," Perrillo said, "eat at home."

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 April 01, 2008 11:47 PM

its all the fault of the "kosher style" chains like 2Jays. I cant stand that chain, and yet Floridians seem to adore it...  

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 April 02, 2008 6:06 AM

True.  TooJays is nothing like the old deli's of the 1960's.  Matter of fact, it almost reminded me of go to one counter and order your sandwich, they give you a ticket that you take to another counter to pay, then you get a "paid" ticket that you take back to the original counter to pick up your sandwich...THEN you could sit down and eat.

You actually had to wait in 3 different queues.

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