Saul’s delicatessen in Gourmet Ghetto to undergo ownership change

Phillip Downey/Senior Staff

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Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen, located on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, will undergo an ownership transition in the coming years.

The co-owners, Peter Levitt and Karen Adelman, plan to sell the restaurant to a successor with Jewish culinary experience and business management skills.

Levitt is looking for someone with a “Jewish cuisine background … maybe somebody experienced from the outside who is aware of which other delicatessens are doing it right and where they are,” he said.

Saul’s, which has been under Levitt and Adelman’s care for the past two decades, seats more than 100 customers and is specially known for its smoked pastrami, according to the restaurant’s website.

Most other Jewish delicatessens that have been around for some time are intergenerational businesses, according to Jweekly. Since Levitt and Adelman do not have any children to pass it down to, they hope to sell it to someone they know and think will be a good match, Adelman said.

The business started in 1955 with the opening of the Shelf Pantry, a small restaurant that sold Ashkenazi Jewish dishes. After changing hands several times, Saul’s was opened in 1986, and Levitt and Adelman took over the business a decade later, according to Jweekly.

“In September, it’ll be the 30th anniversary of Saul’s, which is an exciting milestone,” Adelman said.

The diner serves Matzah ball soup, rye, corned beef and smoked pastrami — distinctly Jewish dishes. But the deli does not offer kosher dishes, Levitt added, which discourages strictly religious people from coming to the restaurant.

“The restaurant allows for the celebration of Jewish secular culture,” Adelman said.

According to its website, the restaurant hopes to bridge the “Old Country” and “New World” by providing a culinary home to those looking to connect to their Jewish roots while also following current culinary practices.

In addition, Saul’s minimizes the impact of the industrial food industry by utilizing sustainable, grass-fed ingredients. The deli’s celery-tonic sodas and organic bagels are made in the restaurant, and some meat products are cured in-house.

“We are concerned with the well-being of customers,” Levitt said. “Saul’s is a large institution with a full-service breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Levitt and Adelman said they are intent on finding the right person to maintain the tradition of Saul’s and hope the transition between owners will be as smooth as possible for all customers. Though Levitt and Adelman are leaving the restaurant, Levitt hopes to help the new owner with the transition.

“Whoever takes over would want to keep me around because I am part of the face of the restaurant,” Levitt said. “I’ll be a huge addition to the team, as I understand how the restaurant works.”

He predicts that the transition will take two to four years.

Contact Sooyoung Hu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SHu_DCal.