For more than three decades, the Lovi family has operated successful mom-and-pop-style delis in the San Fernando and Conejo Valleys. With their latest venture, though, they’re launching something new: upscale deli dining.
Opening Monday, Lovi’s Delicatessen, in the heart of Calabasas, will have a large dining room, a separate full bar, a daily happy hour, patio dining, live music and a seasonal gourmet dinner menu that goes beyond pastrami and corned beef (but, if a big, meaty sandwich on rye is what you're craving, that fare will be on the menu, too). There also will be to-go counters selling deli meat, fresh fish and baked goods, as well as a catering and delivery service. Reservations can be made for dinner and there will be complimentary valet parking.
Owner Alex Lovi’s father was a butcher who dreamed of owning a deli after the family emigrated from Romania. That dream came true in 1979 when the patriarch opened the Country Deli in Chatsworth, later followed by Agoura’s Famous Deli and then Pickles Deli in Newbury Park.
General manager Jay Rubenstein says the core of the new eatery’s 17-page menu is “Jewish traditional food, but we’ve expanded it internationally. We have sushi, we have Italian food, we have a menu that caters to vegetarians – we have all sorts of different things. The idea is that you come to Lovi’s because you can get a little bit of everything and everybody’s happy.”
Some of the most popular selections from the three other Lovi locations also are being offered at the new spot. At the top of that list is Lovi’s take on Chinese chicken salad. “We are known for it and it is a signature dish. It’s the best-selling meal at all of our delicatessens,” Rubenstein says.
Another favorite being brought to the new locale is the skirt steak, a Romanian version created by the Lovi family. And a late addition to the delicatessen’s lineup happened by chance after the head cook was hired. “He brought me his sushi rolls one day for lunch, because he was just being nice, and I said, ‘Well, now we have to put them on the menu,’” Rubenstein recalls.
The restaurant is taking over a former Red Robin, which had many devoted regulars who kept it going for years as a community hangout. “I hope that will happen with our place. You make your living on your regulars,” says Rubenstein, adding that a goal of the massive renovation was to create an atmosphere that was both contemporary and retro, sort of an homage to a typical New York City deli. “At first we thought this was going to be a 90-day project. It’s turned into nine months. Everything in the space has been redone.”
The delicatessen, off the Parkway Calabasas exit on the 101 Freeway, is near Old Town Calabasas and the Commons, where other eateries recently have found success: Sugarfish, Pedalers Fork, Toscanova, and the Six Restaurant all have been given an enthusiastic response.
Lovi’s Delicatessen, 24005 Calabasas Road, Calabasas, open Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight.