SMALL BITES: Bay Area delicacies come and go; greet a friend

Co-owner Jami Goldstene behind the counter at Solomon's Deli in Sacramento (Photo/Kelly Sousa)
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Ethels Gastronomy opened last week in Petaluma. Ethels was born out of a bagel chef business Nicholas Abrams launched during the early days of the pandemic and named after her grandmother.

Abrams told J. the bagels sold out by 11am on the second day of business. Opening day was a huge success, he said, and we were so excited to be open.

As I mentioned in this column recently, I travel for Jewish gastronomy, so I plan to have a full column on Ethels Delicatessen soon.

Changes Underway in Sacramento: Solomons Delicatessen, a Jewish Deli That Took Five Years to Realize, Just Rebranded Vinyl Solomons Dinner. While pastrami, lox and bagels will remain on the menu, the downtown restaurant is shedding its identification as a Jewish deli and offering a more universal menu in an effort to create broader appeal.

The decision was difficult but necessary, in light of how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed everything, he said Jami Goldstenthe Jewish founder of gastronomy.

Solomons opened in July 2019, two years later than expected. The deli is named after Russ Solomon, the Jewish founder of the popular Tower Records chain, which was founded in Sacramento.

Opening a restaurant downtown was a risky decision from the start, but Goldstene and his partners are committed to revitalizing the area. When it opened, the deli found its customers, mostly government employees who worked nearby.

Co-owner Jami Goldstene behind the counter at Solomon's Deli in Sacramento (Photo/Kelly Sousa)
Jami Goldstene behind the counter at Solomon’s Deli in Sacramento (Photo/Kelly Sousa)

When the pandemic hit, the restaurant figured out a way to stay open by preparing meals for those in need and partnering with local nonprofit Sacramento Covered.

But now, post-pandemic, it’s apparent that civil servants are never coming back, Goldstene told J. If the civil servants aren’t here during the week, then weekday breakfast and lunch are over. So you have to move to a more nightly focus and weekend brunch, and that’s what the new management has done.

The restaurant has a new chef, NGina Guyton, who is known in the area for his former restaurant called South.

While Goldstene remains an investor, as does Andrea Lepore, also an original investor, neither will remain involved in Solomons’ operations.

There are hotels around there that have opened since we opened, and that’s really helped, Goldstene said. And the Sacramento Kings started winning, and that helped a lot too. But it wasn’t regular enough to keep doing what we were doing. It needed to change to fit a different vibe downtown and be updated to appeal to all types of people.

In my January 19 column of this year, I wrote about two men in the Bay Area culinary scene who died too young, both Jewish: chef David Golovin and bar manager Ilya Romanov.

Unfortunately, now, there’s a third to add to the list. And unlike the other two, this one was a friend.

I met the chef for the first time Jeff Rosen who sometimes went to Jeff da Chef and his then girlfriend Lindsey Sheehy while we were wine tasting in Sonoma over a decade ago. We started chatting at the bar of a wine shop on the square. I liked them right away. There was something about the gruff ex-New Yorker that resonated with me. We kept in touch on Facebook, where I learned that he was a fellow Deadhead. Somehow, he hadn’t come up in the conversation. And soon he invited me to a Jewish food pop-up he did in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Jeff Rosen and columnist Alix Wall prepare for an event in Oakland.  (Photo/Ting Vogel)
Jeff Rosen and columnist Alix Wall prepare for an event in Oakland. (Photo/Ting Vogel)

Later, the couple moved to Oakland, very close to me.

Jeff was born May 14, 1964 in Queens and raised in Spring Valley, New York. From 1996 to 2002 he was chef and owner of Avenue 9, a beloved restaurant in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset. Most recently, he was behind the opening of Cannery Kitchen & Tap in Castro Valley as part of Blue Heron Catering, and then it was with Pacific Fine Food Catering.

Shortly after meeting them, Jeff and Lindsey started hosting gatherings at their home called “Dinner and a Show,” with amazing food and music. I was still working as a chef then and asked him if I could be his sous chef for these meetings. The events started in 2012 and I’ve done quite a few. Although I had little professional cooking experience, I enjoyed working with Jeff. He was so low stress and we had great synergy in the kitchen.

Jeff and Lindsey have created such a fun and warm atmosphere. To me, this ease of entertaining and creating such a welcoming atmosphere seems like such a Jewish trait, even though Jeff wouldn’t necessarily describe it that way.

Also, I couldn’t help but notice that the vast majority of those who attended were Jews. (Among them was Bob Jaffe, the former owner of Oaklands Grand Bakery.) I never profiled Jeff in my column because these events took place at his home and thus weren’t really open to the public.

Jeff was both a great chef and a great promoter of local musicians. He died on May 18, just days after his 59th birthday, of kidney cancer that first appeared several years ago. He is survived by Lindsey and their three children, Nika, Richard (Max) and Noah Rosen. A GoFundMe has been set up for his family at

I will miss him, as will the local food and music communities.

Ethel’s Delicatessen, 1000 Clegg Court, Petaluma, open 6:30am to 2pm Wednesday to Sunday.

Solomon’s Vinyl Diner, 730 K St., Sacramento, open 9:00am to 3:00pm Wednesday through Sunday.

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