New Berkeley restaurant Deli Rama is obsessed with pastrami

1746 Solano Avenue (near Ensenada Avenue), Berkeley

When Cash Cullis grew up in the Bay Area, all he knew was grocery store pastrami in plastic pouches. His grandmother, who raised him, occasionally purchased other cold cuts, but pastrami remained his favorite. There was an attachment to him, as he is the co-owner of Delirama, a restaurant in

Kallis’ interest in pastrami began when she helped prepare food for a kosher cafe in a catering kitchen in Santa Clara, her first job in the industry. So Caris began learning how to make her seasoned smoked beef.

Over the years, while undergoing various culinary training, Callis continued to learn about seasoning, curing, steaming, and smoking pastrami. Early in the pandemic, when catering jobs were hard to come by, Caris decided it was time to open her East Bay pop-up business with her partner Anahita Cann. . “What is my favorite food, the one I can’t live without, the one I can make really well?” he asked himself. The pastrami was a natural choice.

Delirama owners Anahita Cann (left) and Cash Caris (right). Credit: Alix Wall

Thus began Pyro’s Pastrami, an acclaimed pop-up shop known for its satisfying sandwiches, in October 2020. In less than two years, it has evolved into a North Berkeley restaurant. said Kang. That’s no exaggeration. It’s like a home away from home. ”

Delilama not only makes its own meats (and more on vegan alternatives later), it also bakes its own rye bread, bagels, and bialis.

“If you make your own pastrami, I thought it would be better to make your own rye,” Kallis said, noting that the homemade bread is expected to hold the sandwich together without falling apart.

During the pop-up, Caris created other deli staples, including latkes. Although he never intended to do so, he said the demands of Jewish customers generally drove those decisions.

“If we were making pastrami, they wanted bagels. If we were making bagels, they wanted biali,” Kallis said. Then they started asking, ‘Would you like to make matzah ball soup? For example, after opening Deli Rama, he dialed back many of those products.

Delirama’s menu is a hit with non-meat eaters, and the vegan-friendly pastrami alone is worth a visit. Made from celery root, but incredibly smoky and complex. My husband and I debated whether we liked it better than regular pastrami (which was also delicious).

Celery root undergoes a similar treatment to meat, but is not completely brined for 26 days. Nothing artificial is added. The red color comes from the beet’s juice, says Kallis, because it “eats with the eyes first.”

“People have become more meat-focused,” he said. “I was a little disappointed as I wanted to make it a 50% vegetarian restaurant. I hope you enjoy it.

The classic Reuben sandwich (pastrami or corned beef with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut) is available in vegetarian or vegan versions (Gruyère or vegan cheese).

Caris said she has cured more than 5,000 pounds of pastrami meat since opening.

“I can’t live without this food,” he said. “I have developed strong bonds and connections with the people who brought this food into my life. was really important to me.”

Caris and Conn (neither of whom are Jewish) appreciate that the Jewish deli evokes nostalgia, with customers sharing memories of their grandparents as they consider certain dishes. But Caris welcomes that feedback and appreciates the freedom to operate outside the traditional deli.

“I have a lot of room to be creative,” he said. “People love it when I put pastrami on pizza and beer.”

A long line proved him right. Open from 7am on weekdays and 9am on weekends, it has a breakfast and lunch menu that usually sells out by 2pm.

Caris and Cann have signed a 15-year lease for Delirama’s 1746 Solano Ave. space, hoping to integrate into the North Berkeley community. They also just signed a housing lease and will live minutes from the restaurant.

“We want to help in any way we can,” he said. “We are discussing donations with homeless shelters. We love rescue dogs. We want to be more than just a neighborhood deli. As long as everyone respects each other, I We hope that it will be a safe place for everyone.

A version of this story was first published in J.J., the Jewish News of Northern California. Reprinted with permission.

Featured Image: Delirama ‘sliced’ Reuben on homemade rye.Credits: Delirama/Instagram