Over the past five years, the borough of Brooklyn has become crowded with chic independently owned boutiques and high-end retailers like Barney’s. But downtown Brooklyn’s crowning achievement may have less to do with retail therapy than with the culinary honor it recently won. In the 2011 Zagat Guide, 11 Brooklyn eateries topped the list.
Among the winners is Mile End, the popular Hoyt street deli known for its two-handed house-smoked brisket sandwiches. The shop’s owner, is Noah Bernamoff, a part-time Brooklyn Law student who is currently on hiatus from his studies while he tends to his culinary creations. Bernamoff opened the business because he wanted to offer a Montreal-style brisket sandwich in New York, and in fact modeled his sandwiches after those of Schwartz’s, a beloved Jewish delicatessen in Montreal. He was so successful in his mission that his sandwiches garnered a cult following large enough to steal Zagat’s coveted “Best Deli” title from Upper West Side incumbent Barney Greengrass, a longstanding New York institution.
But Bernamoff is not the first intrepid BLS grad to venture from “torts to tarts,” so to speak. The Spring 2009 issue of LawNotes profiled six alumni who’ve made New York City a lot tastier, including icons like Stanley Zabar ’56 of Zabar’s, Chelsea Market founder Irwin Cohen ’58, Second Avenue Deli’s Jack Lebewohl ’74, David’s Cookies’ David Liederman ’75, Klee Brasserie’s Lori Mason ’99, and Feed Your Soul’s Mya Jacobson ’03.
Since then, the BLS culinary community has grown even larger. Joseph Ajello ’07 is practiced for two years before returning to his family’s legendary pasta business: Pastosa Ravioli, famous throughout Brooklyn. Ajello said that he always knew that he was going to circle back to the family business, and that he hoped to use his law degree to move the business forward. Along with his father, brother, and sister, Ajello has worked to do just that. The business, which opened in 1972 with one store, now makes 50 types of ravioli and has three locations in Brooklyn; their ravioli is sold at 11 retailers citywide.
Another BLS grad, Matt Pek ’07, left a life as a successful commercial litigator at Guzov Ofsink, LLC, to pursue the perfect cup of hot chocolate. With his longtime friend Brett Nidel, a real estate developer, Pek developed a recipe for organic hot chocolate—Organicoa as they call it—that is creamy yet surprisingly light. They took their special mix of fair trade organic cocoa powder (made from sustainably grown Peruvian cacao), organic cane sugar, and organic milk and cream from local farms (there's a vegan almond milk version, too), and a big leap of faith, applying for a seasonal food vendor permit to sell it on the Highline. With sustainability as a hallmark of their operation (their cups are biodegradable, and they use a non-toxic veggie-oil ink press for their printing needs), the eco-friendly Highline board approved their permit, and within weeks of opening up, the pair were approached by the Hudson River Park to take on a five-year lease for a second Organicoa café.
Since serving its first cup of cocoa in 2008, Organicoa has been featured in New York Magazine and Edible Manhattan, and was named one of the “Top 10 New Best New Big Small Brands for Culinary Genius” by Rooster Design Group. With the help of friends, Pek and Nidel operate two seasonal cafes, selling hot cocoa in the winter and “frocoa” (a chilled version) in the summer, along with sandwiches, salads, and homemade chocolate chip cookies from a recipe by Nidel’s mom.
From pasta to chocolate and from brisket to fine French cuisine, the Law School’s multi-talented alumni have made New York tastier by the minute. New Yorkers are guaranteed to enjoy more treats to come from our graduates in the future.