Dana Koschitzky's babka. (Photo/Dafna Adler)
Dana Koschitzky's babka. (Photo/Dafna Adler)

Israeli baker’s babkas are selling like hotcakes in Napa

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

The nearly year-old Jewish deli Loveski in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market has many items worth recommending, but one standout is its heavenly babka. We were lucky enough to try it this past summer, and we feel that it’s worth dedicating an entire column to the babka’s creator.

Dana Koschitzky hails from the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem. Koschitzky, 41, came to the U.S. in 2011 with her husband, Maayan, to follow his dream of being a winemaker. Like many Israelis, the couple thought they’d stay only a few years. But time passed, and one child became three, and opportunities for Maayan kept opening up (he was included in the 40 under 40 list by Wine Enthusiast magazine in 2019), which left his wife wondering what she could do without a green card beyond raising their children.

As it turns out, babka was the answer.

Koschitzky’s parents were immigrants to Israel from Argentina, and her maternal grandparents followed a few years later. To this day, she speaks Spanish with her family; Hebrew is her second language, English her third.

She and her parents would have Shabbat dinner at her grandparents’ house, and her grandmother would cook everything from scratch. While she was permitted to be in the kitchen with her grandmother, she was allowed only to clean up.

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“I think being with her and watching her in the kitchen for so many years and seeing what we had on the table was very meaningful for me,” she said. “And that was the thing that made me want to start The Tish,” the name of her home-based baking operation. (In Yiddish, tish means “table.”)

Starting in 2016, after her third child was born, Koschitzky attended the baking and pastry arts program at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in downtown Napa.

During the summer, for her externship, she took the kids and their nanny to Israel to work at Lehamim, Israeli celebrity chef Uri Scheft’s famed Tel Aviv bakery (also of Breads Bakery in New York). Scheft has popularized babka made with Nutella, the chocolate hazelnut spread. (A version of the spread is popular among Israelis.)

“It was a big operation,” Koschitzky said. “I learned so much, and the people are amazing, with the flavors and culture that you know. It felt like home.”

After finishing up at the CIA in 2018, and with a work visa that allowed her to be employed legally, Koschitzky spent six months at Yountville’s Bouchon Bakery, with a 4 a.m. start time. When she got off at 2 p.m., she reported to her “second job”: taking care of her kids.

(Photo/Courtesy Koschitzky)
(Photo/Courtesy Koschitzky)

“I learned a lot during those six months, but it was too much,” she said. “I wanted to be independent, to have my own thing going on.”

When the pandemic hit, baking became her way to try and stay sane.

She emailed friends that she was starting a weekly food box, with babka, challah, borekas and other Jewish and Israeli items. At first her boxes went to her non-Jewish friends because the Israeli population in Napa is so tiny and her Jewish community network was limited.

“I was just trying to share Israeli tastes with them,” she said, “whatever I grew up on.” Word began to spread.

Finally, last April, Koschitzky’s green card came through, and she moved her operation out of her house and into a commercial kitchen. Also around this time, she learned through Instagram that chef Christopher Kostow was opening a Jewish deli in Oxbow Public Market.

She messaged that she was an Israeli Jewish baker, and within 10 minutes, Kostow wrote back requesting a meeting. She brought him samples, and they batted ideas around. She started with handmade rugelach, and then after a few months switched to babka, which sold at a higher volume.

While the Loveski babka is inspired by Scheft’s and has chocolate chips in addition to Nutella, Koschitzky’s dough is her own recipe. Additionally, she makes savory babka, such as za’atar and feta and pumpkin, though those aren’t for sale at Loveski.

“We love Dana’s babka, and we also love supporting a great local business,” Kostow told J. “The Nutella babka that we carry fits within the Loveski ethos, with one foot in tradition and one foot in fun and whimsy. She is also a great person; we really enjoy being in business with her.”

Loveski is now on the national food-shopping platform Goldbelly, and people are also ordering directly from Koschitzky. To learn more about The Tish’s baked goods, email [email protected].

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."