Bagels from Midnite Bagel (Photo/Instagram-@midnitebagel)
Bagels from Midnite Bagel (Photo/Instagram-@midnitebagel)

Midnite Bagel goes brick-and-mortar; Local Butcher Shop goes worker-owned

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

After 10 years, Monica and Aaron Rocchino have sold the Local Butcher Shop to their employees, making it a worker-owned co-op. We first wrote about the shop in 2014 when we heard that many Tawonga campers and staff had found work there through Monica’s long association with Camp Tawonga.

Located in North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, the Local Butcher Shop opened in 2011 and distinguished itself by carrying only sustainably raised meat that was raised within 150 miles of the store. Saul’s Deli, which is committed to sustainability, was an early customer.

The couple decided to sell the business they’d started because they were having a hard time finding a work/life balance, Monica said.

“It was taking its toll, and yet we weren’t so keen on the idea of selling it to anybody who would take what we did and do something else with it,” she told J.

Then Project Equity, an organization that partners with the city of Berkeley, did an analysis to see whether the Butcher Shop could be turned into a worker-owned co-op. “This was a possibility we never thought of,” Monica said, “and was a win-win for everyone.”

Animal rights
Monica and Aaron Rocchino of Local Butcher Shop in 2014 (Photo/Cathleen Maclearie)

Now both in their 40s, Rocchino said, “We were the oldest people there, and we were also the only married couple and the only people with children, and we had such great people, it seemed like a good time to pass the baton. Everyone has a lot more energy and new ideas that we didn’t have because we’re burnt out. We know they will take it further into the future with new, fresh energy, but maintain the philosophy and standards working with local ranchers and farmers.”

After a brief break, Aaron has just started working for Oakland’s Cream Co. Meats, while Monica is open to new possibilities in the sustainability field. “Whatever it is,” she said, “I still want to feel like I’m making a positive impact on the planet and something that allows us more work/life balance.”

Midnite Bagel will be opening its first café in the coming months at 646 Irving St., an Inner Sunset space that was a former boba tea shop. “We don’t have to do a ton of work, we just need to do some cosmetic changes to the dining area,” chef-owner Nick Beitcher said.

Beitcher is a former baker at Tartine in the Mission District. Midnite has seen rapid growth since its inclusion in the New York Times’ now-famous article declaring that the Bay Area’s bagels were better than New York’s.

The offerings will also include espresso drinks, bagel sandwiches and babka. The bagels will be made in Midnite’s recently opened production space in Dogpatch, and then delivered to the Irving location. Beitcher also told J. that Midnite Bagel will soon be carried by Berkeley Bowl.

Chef Adam Rosenblum told J. he was caught a bit off guard by the demand for his new Jewish deli concept at Little Red Window in North Beach earlier this month, as he ran out of product the first few days after opening on Feb. 1.

Though unprepared for the onslaught, he said, now “We’re getting to a better place of being caught up and able to meet demand.”

It’s been “very rewarding and humbling,” Rosenblum said, and people have been reacting to the deli in exactly the way he had hoped.

Not only has the feedback been overwhelmingly positive, “I’ve learned there are a lot of people living here from New Jersey.”

Reader tip: Thank you to reader Anat Sapan, who identifies herself as a “New York Jew in the Bay always on the search,” who wrote to us about her extreme love for the bagels at Solomon’s Delicatessen in Sacramento. While we’ve covered Solomon’s extensively since it opened in 2018, we have not written specifically about their bagels.

Solmon's Deli bagel board: everything bagel, lox, capers, tomato, pickles and more
I scream, you scream, we all scream for… the bagel board at Solomon’s Deli. (Photo/Alix Wall)

Calling them “a metziya,” which translates from Yiddish as “a real find,” Sapan wrote: “Yesterday I had a bagel that reminded me of a time in NYC in the eighties when bagels were not bigger than a plate. When you didn’t have to scoop the inside out. When the ratio of inside to outside was perfect. Where are these amazing bagels? At Solomon’s in Sacramento. They are as delicious hot as they are cold the next morning. Wow. The dough is perfect. I only wish I bought more and didn’t have to schlep to Sacramento.”

Readers, if you taste some local Jewish food that is particularly worthy of mention, drop us a note. “We” are only one person in this column and can’t get everywhere. Always happy to share reader suggestions.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."