The restaurant asked the Orthodox Union for a new kashrut designation that covered only the cholov stam designation at the beginning of December, and the request was granted.
“It was an experiment, and it didn’t work out,” Magerman said.
Zagafen is a dairy restaurant serving Neapolitan pizzas, homemade pastas and a variety of other vegetable-based dishes in Bala Cynwyd. It is the latest in a succession of area kosher eateries opened by Magerman, from The Dairy Café to Citron & Rose, now the Citron & Rose Market and Tavern. Magerman paired up with the Zavino Hospitality Group (responsible for Zavino and Tredici, among others) to open Zagafen.
The distinction between the two kosher designations was an important factor for Magerman and his partners at the ZHG to consider as they worked to open the restaurant. The cholov Yisroel designation is considered more stringent than the cholov stam designation, requiring a separate kitchen, a second mashgiach, time-consuming extra silverware cleaning and additional training for servers. Those who will eat the latter are happy to eat the former, but not vice versa.
The cost, Magerman said, was not the issue when it came to having two kitchens. Whatever the price, it would be equal to the goal of a quality kosher restaurant for all who wanted it. Magerman often has, as he put it, a tendency to “jump to the elaborate and expensive thing.” To his knowledge, a kosher restaurant with a cholov stam and cholov Yisroel kitchen had never had lasting success.
“I still lose money on restaurants; I’m happy to do it,” he said. “I’m not happy to lose money, but I’m happy to operate the restaurants even if it’s at a loss, because it serves an important need.”
And as Magerman found out over the course of a few months, the community that the cholov Yisroel designation was created to serve did not seem to be interested in Zagafen. To keep the second kitchen open, then, in Magerman’s view, would not have made sense.
“The people who most needed it wouldn’t be satisfied with it, and the people who would be satisfied with it wouldn’t really need it,” he said.
In the meantime, the second kitchen has remained idle as Magerman and his team try to figure out what they’ll do next. They’ve batted around ideas like converting it into a gluten-free kitchen, or keeping it cholov Yisroel for private parties that request it in the future.
“Right now, it’s just sitting unused,” he said.
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