(From left) Chef David Cohen with his partners Jim Foley and Jay Farwell at the opening of Montebello Market.
(From left) Chef David Cohen with his partners Jim Foley and Jay Farwell at the opening of Montebello Market.

New deli and market in Los Gatos imports East Coast nostalgia

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

After 10 years as executive chef of Oren’s Hummus, chef David Cohen has taken on another restaurant project, as partner of a new deli in Los Gatos where he is also overseeing the kitchen. Montebello Market, which opened May 7, has East Coast sandwiches and a grocery with high-end local and imported specialty food products.

To the delight of East Coasters, the market is shipping in its pastrami, corned beef, rye bread and black and white cookies from New York’s famed Carnegie Deli, and Amoroso’s rolls from Philadelphia for an authentic cheesesteak experience. And yes, there is Dr. Brown’s soda and other regional touches, such as Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer.

“For people who went to school on the East Coast, or East Coast natives, we’re trying to bring a lot of those East Coast favorites and unique items,” Cohen, 47, said.

Cohen noted that since the market is new and a work in progress, it will continue to evolve. Jewish bakery items will include New York style cheesecake, rugelach and schnecken (a sweet, snail-shaped German pastry), but none of those are available yet since the store’s special-order pastry case is currently in a shipping container on the ocean.

“This [venture] was spurred by changes in my personal life. As I got divorced, I started looking around for other things I wanted to do,” Cohen told J. “I love the Middle Eastern palate, but it’s relatively narrowly defined, and at Oren’s, we have a formula that works. As much as I can color in the lines, I want to color outside them, too.”

The timing worked out, with two friends who wanted to partner with Cohen, Jim Foley and Jay Farwell. One is the landlord of the new space.

There is outdoor seating at Montebello Market, so food can be eaten in or taken out.

The business opened with a party in Town Plaza, a city park just across the way. The park hosts events year-round — including concerts and holiday celebrations including a Halloween parade — so the partners invested in a special alcohol license that allows them to sell boozy beverages to consume on-site or to-go (think adult milkshakes or margaritas), as well as beer, wine and spirits.

“It’s like an old town square, so our proximity to it allows us to be the bar for the park, and we took advantage of that,” Cohen said. On weekends and during special events at the park, the store also sets up a concession stand with kid-friendly items, such as cotton candy, funnel cakes and pretzels.

Montebello Market in Los Gatos opened in May.
Montebello Market in Los Gatos opened in May.

“I wanted to do something that was really fun, and that’s what this project has been and what we are doing,” Cohen explained. “Whatever you stop in for, you can interact with this space in a really casual, fun way.”

Though Cohen studied architecture and regional planning as an undergraduate at Cornell University, the Philadelphia native has the restaurant business in his bones.

“My great-grandmother was a Russian immigrant and owned a restaurant. My grandparents owned a restaurant in South Bend, Indiana, right near Notre Dame,” he said. And his mom grew up in the restaurant, so “I’m three out of four generations in the restaurant business.”

Cohen added that his mother was a wonderful cook, and he often hung out in the kitchen when she was preparing meals. “I have vivid, early memories of helping to peel vegetables and learning how to rub a chicken with schmaltz,” he said.

Cohen’s first paying job was at a bagel joint, and he continued to cook throughout college. He knew his interest in the field was serious when, after college, he went to travel in Europe and ended up cooking in Greece for a time and attending culinary school in London.

“I love the creativity of food, and I have pretty good business acumen,” so it’s worked out, he said.

Will there be Middle Eastern food at Montebello Market? Or will Cohen draw a strict line between the deli and Oren’s?

There are no rules, Cohen stated. “The gut of it is an East Coast deli, but my relationship with Oren’s might be made known,” he said. “With this market, we won’t be confined to any cuisine. Once we get off the ground, will there be poke next to schnitzel? Whatever we want.”

Meanwhile, Oren’s continues to expand. Now with six Bay Area locations, the company started by an Israeli tech entrepreneur who missed Israeli hummus is adopting the ghost kitchen concept to expand into markets farther afield. Opening later this year are Oren’s Hummus outlets in Sacramento, Davis and Los Angeles.

Montebello Market, 9 Montebello Way, Los Gatos. montebellomarket.com

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."