Here comes a regular

Primo’s Deli + Supercaffeinated serve knishes, espresso and ‘Jewtalian’ vibes

Supplied photo - Abi Torquato slings coffee at Supercaffeinated.

The atmosphere at Supercaffeinated and Primo’s Deli, located in the Good Will Social Club, stands in stark contrast to the ubiquitous look of typical third-wave coffee shops, characterized by minimalism and pastels. Supercaffeinated is darker, louder and, frankly, more fun.

I recently sat down with Abi Torquato, the owner of Supercaffeinated (and previously the owner of Garry Street Coffee), and Mischa Decter, the chef/owner of Primo’s Deli, to chat about food, community and whether or not Warren Zevon is Jewish (he is).

On any given (week)day, Torquato can be found behind the counter, brewing espresso, with Decter in the back making food. The music is loud but not so loud that people don’t talk. People talk a lot, often to strangers. The atmosphere is a mix of eccentric and laid-back, and Torquato has an uncanny knack for bringing everyone into the fray.

“Anybody is welcome here, and they’re always part of the conversation if (they) want to be, which is incredible” Torquato says.

Primo’s Deli began doing pop-ups in late 2022 and has been a permanent fixture at the Good Will since July. The menu features deli-style sandwiches with an emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients.

“It’s a mix of Jewish and Italian food,” Decter says. “Some elements of classic New York/Toronto/Montreal Jewish deli but more of the fresh ingredients you’d find in Italian food, as opposed to the meat and bread and mustard staple of Jewish deli food.”

“Jewtalian!” Torquato interjects, quoting the name of Primo’s feature sandwich.

Other menu items include the “Donald Fagen (The Primo Chopped Cheese)” and the “Lenny Kravitz (Vegan!)”

“It’s a thing in L.A. Jewish delis. Every sandwich is named after a Jewish actor or comedian, but I wanted to name them after guys who were, like Jewish, but you wouldn’t be like ‘Oh that guy’s Jewish.’ Donald Fagen is one of the guys from Steely Dan.”

Supplied photo - Mischa Decter (left) and Kadin Gray, owners of Primo’s Deli

“Or Warren Zevon,” I chime in (citing one of their previous feature sandwiches).

“Yeah, he’s not Jewish, actually,” Decter adds. Torquato quickly fact-checks and confirms that, yes, Zevon is Jewish.

Since the Good Will is located a short walk from the University of Winnipeg, many students visit the space to study.

“We have 7,000 square feet,” Torquato says. “Kids are coming here to study again, which we encourage.”

Both Decter and Torquato say it’s important to maintain affordable prices so the space remains accessible for students. With a valid student ID, a sandwich and a coffee cost just $15.

“We also do a knish and coffee... We’re one of the only two places – unless I’m horribly mistaken in my research,” Decter admits, “that makes knishes in Winnipeg.”

Later, when I go to independently confirm Zevon’s Jewishness, I stumble upon a quote from the musician. Appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman following his diagnosis with terminal cancer, Zevon offered these words of wisdom: “Enjoy every sandwich.”

It’s great advice.

Supercaffeinated and Primo’s Deli are located in the Good Will Social Club at 625 Portage Ave. They are open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Published in Volume 78, Number 08 of The Uniter (November 2, 2023)

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