A Latke of Love in The Rosemary District

Good Bite

The iconic New York Cheesecake is a favorite creation by Sol Shenker and can be purchased now at the Box Office. Photo by Peter Acker.

Don’t let Lemon and Pineapple Avenues fool you. As New York-style Jewish delis pop up around Sarasota, the city is starting to feel more like the Big Apple than a tropical town. The newest addition is The Original Wolfie’s Delicatessen and Rascal House, opening at the beginning of November in the Rosemary District.

Wolfie’s is close to the heart of chef Sol Shenker, a New Yorker who made a name for himself running several beloved delis and restaurants in Sarasota, like Sol’s NYC Deli Corner at the Hotel Indigo. “Wolfie’s comes from Miami; a guy by the name of Wolfie Cohen owned the place. It was in business for decades and decades,” says Shenker. “Then my partner bought into the place, eventually owning it with his partners at the time, and that version of the restaurant was in business for years and years.” The restaurant closed, but Shenker's partner kept the business’s name. Together, Shenker and his partner built The Original Wolfie’s Delicatessen and Rascal House.

“Wolfie’s is the restaurant part, with all the food and the deli; we’ve got miles of deli cases, and we’ll be making sandwiches in front of everybody. The Rascal House is our old-time New York-style bar,” he adds. Wolfie’s will serve up classics from Shenker’s native New York with inspiration pulled from his time working at The Rascal House in Miami. Combining the crust of Junior’s cheesecake from New York with the cheesecake base from The Rascal House, he has created a myriad of flavors. Keep an eye out for the Pumpkin Cheesecake, which will arrive just in time for holiday feasts. If you can’t wait until the main restaurant opens, grab a piece from Wolfie’s Box Office, the grab-and-go section of the establishment that’s up, running and ready to dish out helpings of the famous cheesecake.

Stop by Wolfie’s for pastrami, corned beef and brisket, sourced from a New York butcher. “We have a lot of great authentic dishes, like slow-cooked braised shortribs called flanken, roasted chicken, stuffed cabbage, meatloaf and all our different sides like potato latkes and sweet noodle kugel. When I made my chopped liver, all of my clientele in Sarasota nicknamed it Jewish peanut butter. We also have a lot of great options for vegetarians, like cabbage soup and vegetarian mushroom barley, which is phenomenal,” Shenker adds.

While enjoying this iconic fare, patrons will be immersed in a restaurant experience where the New York deli meets Broadway, complete with marquee-style lighting, which sets the stage for an expansive deli case. “There will be guys with three brand-new meat slicers, slapping out the sandwiches,” Shenker says, describing the choreography of his restaurant. “It’s going to smell like corned beef, pastrami and pickles. Then you walk through to The Rascal House, with a beautiful black granite bar and copper ceilings. It really is Broadway meets South Florida, and I’m blown away. I’ve worked in delis all over the country, in Boca Raton, New York, everywhere, and I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” he adds.

Behind all of the razzle-dazzle, Wolfie’s has a simple mission. “I do this for the love of this food. I do this because it brings people back to a better time, back in Manhattan when it was a whole different ballgame and people were eating at the New York delis. Eating this food almost brings back family values,” Shenker says. “It makes people happy when they eat it, and if it’s done right, it reminds them of family that’s no longer with us.”

The Original Wolfie’s Delicatessen and Rascal House, 1420 Boulevard of the Arts, Rosemary District, Sarasota, 941-312-4072, originalwolfies.com.

The iconic New York Cheesecake is a favorite creation by Sol Shenker and can be purchased now at the Box Office. Photo by Peter Acker.

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