Cranston deli showcases traditional Jewish soul food

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While Jewish delicatessens are closing across the nation, Rhode Island is fortunate to be bucking the trend.

Rudy’s NY Style Delicatessen opened in August in Cranston, at 961 Dyer Ave., and word has spread quickly – already, lunchtime regulars crowd the 24-seat restaurant and people desperately craving matzah ball soup, or an overstuffed tongue sandwich on rye, have traveled here from as far as Randolph, Massachusetts, and Cape Cod.

Owners William “Billy” Rudacevsky, and his daughters, Alisha Rudacevsky and Audra Mena, understand the pull of traditional Jewish food for those who were reared on it – and that’s partly why they opened Rudy’s.

The family – accomplished cooks, all – wants to preserve the recipes handed down from Rudacevsky’s mother, Goldie “Bubbe” Rudacevsky, which were handed down to her from her mother. 

So, Audra makes the creamy chopped liver and crispy potato kugel and potato latkes. Alisha makes the golden noodle kugel, and does most of the baking, from hamantashen to rugelach, pistachio chocolate chip cake (“to die for”) and pies. Rudacevsky’s wife, Nancy Lee, makes the potato salad and coleslaw. Most of the meats are cooked daily on-site, but the pastrami is imported from New York City, as are the blintzes, pickles, and knishes. Rainbow Bakery, in Cranston, (“Home of the best rye in R.I.”) supplies the breads.

Rudy’s offers breakfast, salads, soups and sandwiches all day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The simple menu features such classics of Jewish cuisine as bagel, lox and cream cheese, Hebrew National salami, and corned beef. andwiches are piled high with more than one-third pound of meat – but if that’s not enough for you, ask for a double portion. There are also daily specials, such as lox, eggs and onions, and kasha varnishkes. And if you don’t see what you want on the menu, ask, Rudacevsky says!

Rudy’s also caters, and Rudacevsky says the catering menu is far more extensive than the restaurant menu. “Anything you want,” he says.

As he prepares for his first Passover in business, Rudacevsky has shared three holiday recipes, to keep the legacy of Bubbe Rudacevsky – and Jewish soul food – alive.

Potato Carrot Kugel

5 medium potatoes, grated

2 large carrots, grated

2 onions, minced

1 cup matzah meal

3 eggs

1/4 cup oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Dill and/or chives, to taste.

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Pour into greased 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees 40 to 60 minutes, until firm.

Beef Brisket

This recipe calls for starting the brisket the day before it will be eaten.

5 pound brisket

3 or 4 sliced onions

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup water

1 package onion soup mix

Spread onions on bottom of roasting pan. Place brisket fat side up on top of onions. Mix ketchup, water, soup mix together and pour over roast. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 325 degrees about 3 hours until fork-tender.  

The next day, remove fat, if desired, slice the meat and pour gravy on top. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.   

Passover Nut Cake

6 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup Passover cake meal

2 tablespoons potato starch

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons orange juice

2 tablespoons grated orange peel

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Beat eggs well. Add all ingredients except nuts and mix well. Fold in nuts. Bake at 350 degrees 50-60 minutes in an angel food pan.

CYNTHIA BENJAMIN is an editor, writer and chef. She is a member of Congregation B’nai Israel in Woonsocket.