March 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

As Ben’s just completed our 50thAnniversary in business, I have to say that the customer’s responses have been heartwarming. Given the Pandemic, the turbulent world in which we now find ourselves, the supply chain shortages and the escalating cost of goods, I believe the worst is behind us; I am looking forward with a renewed sense of optimism on the future of Ben’s. Not that we went unscathed by the events of the past three years or so but we survived and I believe will be stronger as a result.

We continue to tweak our menu dispensing with those food items that are no longer in demand and introducing new menu items to our staff and patrons. Our supervising chef, Atilio Celis and his respective staffs along with my daughter Jaime Passy, COO Todd Silverstein and Vice President Gilah Salzano are looking and tasting various menu offerings to possibly incorporate onto our menus.

We are also testing bringing back dinner specials, on weekends, which we abandoned during the Pandemic while expanding our delivery services knowing that the market place has changed along with patrons dining habits and expectations.

Many years ago I remember a fellow named Bob Dylan who said the times they are a changin’. Well, they are still changing and evolving and  Ben’s will continue to change with the times to keep the great kosher deli tradition alive and well for many years into the future. Please March to a different drummer and come to Ben’s and celebrate with our St. Patrick’s specials that are available from March 1stthrough St. Patrick’s day March 17th. Thank you all. WE APPRECIATE YOU!

See you at the deli!

February 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Some of you may be familiar with me as I have helped lots of our loyal customers with questions regarding our Ben’s Friends’ Rewards program. My name is Al Olle and I oversee all things marketing and loyalty.  I have been with Ben’s for 12 years; I started my path here as a server, shortly thereafter I became assistant to the president of Ben’s and eventually took over responsibility of Ben’s marketing. In the years since, I have revamped our website, created all our social media accounts, slowly but surely moved us away from traditional heavy print advertising which is what we mostly did and moved to more targeted digital solution. The idea is to reach our customers where they are,  be it a newspaper, email, social media or while browsing their favorite websites.

As if things weren’t already challenging in the restaurant space, Covid 19 happened, dine in was not an option for most of us and Ben’s was going to be in a tough spot, as we did not have a reliable online ordering system. Without one, our phones and cashiers would not have been able to handle the large volume of orders, so we got to work and swiftly launched Ben’s Order & Delivery, our own platform that’s integrated with our Ben’s Rewards Program.  I am happy to say that the timing was perfect, and we were able to keep you fed while allowing you to continue to earn points and redeeming your hard-earned rewards.

In retrospect, the impact covid had on the restaurant industry is incredible,  it changed the way you shop and the way we as restaurant folks look at hospitality. We have learned that we must leverage technology and evolve beyond the four walls of our stores.

So, what’s next? I would love to say drinks by the beach in Hawaii, but we are busy working on some new and exciting changes to our Ben’s Friends Rewards program to keep you better engaged and more informed about your accounts. We are also working on a simpler and cleaner look for our website which is something I will be working on with Ronnie’s daughter Jaime who has some really fresh ideas and our webmaster/graphic designer Debi who will help us put it all together nicely.

I couldn’t do what I do for Ben’s without the full support and trust of one of the funniest and hardest working people in the kosher deli game, Mr. Ronnie Dragoon.  His love for deli has fueled my passion for this job so I will continue to do my best for him and to help Keep The Kosher Deli Tradition Alive.

As Ronnie loves to say,
See you at the deli!

Ps. Don’t forget to order one of catering packages for the Superbowl, it looks to be an exciting game!

January 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

If the President of the United States can give a State of the Union speech, and the Governor of New York State can give a State of the State address, so, too, can I give the State of Ben’s in far fewer words than the President and/or the Governor.

So let’s get right to it:

Ben’s has experienced the unprecedented emergence of Covid (at least in my lifetime), and was able to navigate through all the vitriol and divisiveness in the country, and the rampant inflation that all of us have experienced as consumers and vendors. So after all this, where are we now and where are we headed in 2023? Ben’s through the years has had its share of ups and downs but never were we so threatened as we have been … but we emerged, and I think stronger than we have been in some time.

My goal has been to maintain the restaurant locations we now have and increase our sales by expanding our delivery areas as well as our offerings. We have an amazing amount of dedicated and caring workers who know the mission and the goal in the coming years of being the preeminent kosher caterer and restaurant in the United States. It is not an easy business and never was but as we overcame the high interest rates in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the financial crisis in 2008, we, too, shall overcome all the issues I have raised. How do we do this?

We do this by having an evolving menu with more food options, maintaining the cleanliness and good looks of the respective Ben’s locations and seeking out superior management talent.

We look forward to 2023 with optimism and with the hope that our vendors, patrons, and employees face the future with the same optimism. And I must thank all the patrons who have written me, called the “hot line,” made suggestions, criticized or complimented on what they saw and experienced.

May you all have a resurgence of optimism, health and good fortune in 2023.

See you all at the Deli,

December 2022 Ruminations & Ronnifications

What an exciting and busy year it has been! Not only are we on our last leg of 2022 but we just completed yearlong 50th anniversary celebrations. As a member of the Executive team and Vice President of Ben’s, it was both a privilege and honor to be a part of the planning and execution of many events and festivities orchestrated for this milestone.

Whether you took advantage of the specials we promoted each month, read one of the many articles written in our regional newspapers, participated in the 50% off your entire dining room check day, or joined us for our party, we were thrilled to celebrate with you.

And speaking of celebrating, it was our pleasure to help once again create new Thanksgiving memories, as you filled our dining rooms or arranged for delivery or picked-up catering orders, large and small.

As Hanukkah approaches, we look forward to continuing to serve all your dining room and catering needs.  Our Hannukah menu is available, so you can start placing your orders and take advantage of our delicious flavored mini latkes offer.  We carry plain potato, zucchini, spinach and my absolute favorite, sweet potato. These special flavors will be available beginning December 17th and continue for the eight days of Hanukkah. Additionally, we are having a kids latkes demonstration on Sunday, December 11th at 10:30.  Don’t forget we are open on Christmas Eve, Day and New Years Eve and Day as well!

I would be remiss, if I passed this season without giving thanks to the customers that patronize us, our management team, and all the rest of the hardworking employees that make all this possible. I promise you our gratitude is boundless as we know this business would not prevail and thrive without every one of you.

It is bittersweet as we say goodbye to an amazing 2022, but we welcome 2023 with open arms and many new and exciting plans to keep the tradition alive as we embrace our 51st year in business. Stay tuned!

See ya at the deli,
Gilah Salzano
Vice President

November 2022 Ruminations & Ronnifications

My name is Todd Silverstein and I am the Chief Operating Officer of the Ben’s Restaurant Group. I have worked closely with Ronnie for over thirty years during which time he has been both a good friend and invaluable mentor.  I began this journey in the Walt Whitman Mall where Ronnie built a Ben’s Express Deli. My first Ben’s management position was in our Carle Place location in the fall of 1992. At that point, things changed for me as I now found my new career path. I have been the General Manager of the Ben’s in Greenvale, Woodbury, and now back to Greenvale where I was able to work with and interact with Ronnie on an almost daily basis. Over these thirty years, I have catered large corporate BBQ’s, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, birthday parties on and off premises, engagement parties, weddings as well as going to out of town synagogues from venues as far away as Arizona, Vermont, Washington, D.C., while our Boca Raton location takes care of the state of Florida going from south Florida to Jacksonville in northern Florida. What makes this truly amazing is that we are now catering events for the offspring of those who we catered their bris, bar and bat mitzvahs, engagements, and weddings so many years ago.

Fast forward now to 2022 where we are celebrating 50 years in business.

I am responsible for leading a great team of over 240 employees. My goals are simple. Continue to keep the tradition alive while adapting to this very changing world with all the challenges we now face. With the dining rooms seeing a nice uptick in business, we will once again have weekend dinner specials in addition to the weekday dinner specials, we now offer. Sometime in the early winter we hope to engineer a Meatless Monday menu. All Ben’s locations now have gluten free bread and our plant-based menus and vegetarian options will continue to expand and be refined. Our Supervising Chef Atilio Celis will be coming to your local Ben’s in the coming months. Lastly, Ronnie’s daughter, Jaime Passy, has become involved with Ben’s overseeing our social media working closely with our Marketing Manager, Mr. Al Olle.

We thank you for helping us to keep the tradition alive and as my good friend and mentor Ronnie would say…

Hope to see you all at the deli soon,

Todd Silverstein
Chief Operating Officer
Ben’s Restaurant Group

October 2022 Ruminations & Ronnifications

In over thirty years in writing for the hard copy Deli E Newsletter, and now the monthly On-line Newsletter, I’ve pretty much exhausted my interesting and funny stories, celebrations, and memories.  Nothing in college, nothing in the streets of New York City, and nothing in my prior life experiences could have  prepared me for the kosher deli business.

But I have now lived it for 50 years and survived … and thrived. And we are still listening to our patrons – new and old – so that we can innovate, and keep up with changing times and  habits.

In the coming months you will hear from Mr. Todd Silverstein, our Chief Operating Officer, as well as our Vice-President, Ms. Gilah Salzano. I am sure they will have some interesting insights and thoughts as to how we best position ourselves the balance of this decade and beyond.

In the meantime, I will resume writing, Confessions of a Kosher Deli Clerk, that began over twenty years ago with forty pages written and then stowed away for future resumption. It’s time for me to resume my excursion into creative writing. Until then, I will continue advising Todd and Gilah as they do the grunt work needed to sustain Ben’s.

Thank you  for your   loyalty and most importantly your friendships, that developed through the last 50 years.

On Tuesday, October 25th we will be celebrating our 50 year anniversary in every Ben’s by giving 50% off  on all dining room checks.  Come join us and enjoy the savings and celebration.

See ya at the deli,

September 2022 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Hi everyone. Jaime, Ronnie’s daughter, here. My dad asked if I’d be interested in writing the blog this month, so here I am. I am a teacher by trade and one thing I always encouraged my students to do was ask questions. Questions are powerful. They foster thinking and wonder. This gave me an idea. Let’s go back to the basics.  Since I came back to work at Ben’s last summer- after working there on and off throughout high school and college- I was inundated with questions from friends regarding certain foods, preparation, etc., so it made me think our customers were curious as well.

Let’s start with an anecdote about Howard Stern. Many years ago, when Howard Stern lived on Long Island, he frequented our Greenvale store. One day he asked his server the difference between a square and round knish in which his server replied, “Four corners!” Well, Howard Stern went on his radio show and rehashed this interaction for all to hear!! So, let’s uncover some of these Kosher mysteries. I asked a handful of customers and friends and here’s what I got…

What makes meat kosher?

Um, the preparation.”

“The meat is blessed by a rabbi.”

“It’s the type of meat and the way it is prepared.”

“It’s the way it’s slaughtered, and the rabbi blesses it.”

The truth is:

For meat to be considered kosher, it must be slaughtered properly. This Jewish practice is called shechita. Jewish law also prohibits the consumption of any blood, so once the animal has been killed, the meat undergoes a special soaking and salting process to remove the blood. Kosher meat is from the forequarter of the animal, not the hindquarter. (No shellfish, no pork either!)

What is goulash?


“Egg noodles and meat.”

“A jail in Russia.”

“A mix of vegetables that I won’t eat.”

“It’s beef and noodles with a brown sauce.”

The truth is:

Goulash is made with stew meat. It was an Eastern European peasant food since it was then a cheaper cut of meat that had to be cooked for longer periods of time to become tender.

What’s the difference between a square and round knish?

“A round knish has no corners.”

“The round tastes better (laughs).”

“The angles.”

“Hmm, maybe you would you get more with the square?”

“One is baked the other is fried.”

“Round is baked, square is fried.”

“One of them definitely has meat in it.”

“I think that is one is potato, and one is something else.”

The truth is:

The difference between the homemade round knishes and the Coney Island Squares is four corners. On a more serious note, the homemade round knishes are baked while the squares are fried.

What is gefilte fish?

“Disgusting (laughs) It’s a bottom feeder.

“Oh g-d I don’t know, I don’t eat fish. I have no idea, dead fish.”

“Fish that’s been through a grinder.”

“It’s sort of like a fish patty.”

“It’s pickled herring, isn’t it? Wait no, it’s the gold coins.” (spoken by a true Shiksa from out of state)

“Slimy fish, and you eat with horseradish sauce.”

“Smoked fish, mackerel.”

“It’s a silver fish.”

“It’s like a pickled fish.”

“A mixture of whitefish, halibut and chopped onions.”

The truth is:

Gefilte fish is made by removing bones from various white fish like carp, whitefish, mullet, and pike, grinding them up and then mixing with breadcrumbs and eggs. It’s essentially a fish burger or patty.

What’s the difference between sour and half sour pickles?

“One is olive green, and the other is regular green.”

“Hmm, sour has been fermented longer.”

“Ummm, one will make you make a funnier face than the other.”

“The color and all pickles should be half sour.”

“The amount of vinegar used.”
“The way they’re made, and they both start out as cucumbers.”

“The color and maybe the cucumbers you use?”

“One has more vinegar.”

“Something to do with the brine, but I’m not entirely sure.”

The truth is:

It takes up to six months to make Kirby cucumbers into sour pickles while half sours (or also referred to as new pickles) takes days/weeks.

So, there you have it. Some on point, some entertaining, and some responses completely off the grid. Whatever the response, it was fun to be a part of these conversations.

It has been a year since I came back to work with the amazing team at Ben’s and I’ve truly enjoyed my time here. My dad began the Ben’s journey 50 years ago and I intend on helping keep our family tradition alive by bringing new generations into our restaurants. So, as my dad always says, “See you (and your kids and grandkids) at the deli!”

Jaime Dragoon Passy

August 2022 Ruminations & Ronnifications

As you may know, we are celebrating our 50th year in business, and our 40th year in Greenvale where we will be having a ribbon cutting ceremony in October of this year with our vendors, our key employees (although one could argue all of our employees are key and an integral part of our success over these past fifty years), and our local politicians on our expansion of outdoor dining as well as a makeover of the Greenvale restaurant giving it a more modern look. This has been a key to our success which is to innovate and keep up with the times.

Wow! And yes, I am still surprised that Ben’s 50th year is upon us as I sit in my home office and wonder where all the years have gone. Then I was a starry eyed, idealistic young man and now I am a 74 year old grizzled (and some say grumpy) senior citizen. I’ve learned things I could never learn in college. In fact, I recommend this type of education for everyone no matter their background nor educational pedigree. What I have learned about people, vendors, and government can only be learned in what I call, “the trenches.”

And there I have been for 47 of those years with my wife Cindy and major support throughout the years. Who else would tolerate the hours and days I worked other than my best friend, companion and mother of our two children, Joshua and Jaime? Without such support I could never have grown Ben’s from a single store to as many as ten but now with six still standing despite the Pandemic and an upside down world. For that I am thankful to my family and ask forgiveness for all the birthdays, weddings and special occasions that Cindy, Josh and Jaime missed their daddy. My family gave up much but we all gained much from of our efforts. Not bad for a kid who lived in eight different places by age 14 whose family was evicted from apartments multiple times and whose parents one excursion into home ownership at age 6 resulted in a mortgage foreclosure two years later. All this made me, for better or worse, strive for success as I defined it. So now I must also thank all our patrons–past and present–for helping me continue on this journey.

With best regards,
Ronnie Dragoon

July 2022 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Once again, I’ve been given the monthly task of writing a blog for the E Deli Newsletter … so after about twenty years of writing this monthly piece, I was bereft of ideas. Then, suddenly, I realized that it is July 4th and what better topic than that of our founding fathers. Men (and women) of character, of letters, they dotted the landscape of the colonies. Political philosophers who sought to emulate the great Greek philosophers and the English Magna Carta. Hamilton, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Jay, are just some of the names I remember from my political science classes (from over 55 years ago). Not without warts, they still represented the best of America. Legal scholars, inventors, reluctant politicians, authors of the Declaration of Independence, author of the Bill of Rights (presently under attack) and of course, our United States Constitution which I believe should be a living document.

So to everyone at Ben’s –– customers, vendors and employees –– I wish you a Happy July 4th using the month of July as a reflection of where we have been and gone and where we shall go to make this a more perfect union.

Thank you all for your patronage and for helping me keep the kosher tradition alive.

With best regards,
Ronnie Dragoon

June 2022 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Did we really get through this past winter?
It felt like it would never end …  Then two 90-degree days in a row.
The transition from winter to spring is much like life. You never know what to expect or what will happen next.

So, where do we stand?
The cost of gas is through the roof.
The cost of freight has affected every industry.
Produce prices are up in many cases 30%.
Kosher meat and poultry are up in some cases 30%.
Canned goods are all greatly affected by freight, and import costs have dramatically increased.
Labor shortages are palpable.

So, what do I think the future holds?
Hope for a better world, a more peaceful world, where the weakest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters will be able to have food on their tables, a roof over their heads and safety in schools.
Let’s not take steps backward. Let’s move forward and hope for better people on the world stage with a sense of decency and compassion.

Wait, I have to get back to work behind the deli counter instead of pontificating.

I will never forget my roots and I will never ever lose hope.

With best regards,
Ronnie Dragoon

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