My Main Street-Centre Street Deli
Something to Nosh On
Centre Street Deli has been an institution in Vaughan for 35 years and, nearly a decade after a change in ownership, it’s showing no sign of slowing down. Read on for their story, then grab your Bubby and head to the restaurant.
In-store Wall Art
Nana Grande starts her mornings at work with a bowl of kreplach soup (with a matzo ball, of course), but it’s the old-fashioned smoked-meat sandwich on rye with mustard, a pickle and fries on the side (“our potatoes are cut fresh every day — I’m getting hungry thinking about it”) that really satiates her. She’s also partial to the chopped liver when she’s craving it. (Pro tip: Try the Kishke.)
Those are Grande’s go-to meals at Centre Street Deli, the restaurant that’s been around since 1988. Grande joined the staff under the original ownership in 1998, but when she found out Sam Agelopoulos and Cheryl Morantz were ready to retire and sell the business nine years ago, she and her colleague, Kuna Thavapalan, bought it. “I had always wanted to do something on my own. Working at the deli was wonderful — the hours were perfect when I had young kids. I was a server, but I did pretty much everything in the front of the house,” she explains. She partnered with Thavapalan, a Sri Lankan immigrant and the cook who mastered operations in the back of the restaurant, as he’d been making everything from scratch since the deli opened. Sam taught Kuna all the authentic Jewish recipes he’d brought with him when he moved to Toronto from Montreal. “Kuna knew everything about the back, and I knew everything about the front. It just made sense for us to own it together.”
Owners Nana Grande and Kuna Thavapalan
Between the timing being right, her desire to honour her Jewish roots and her undeniable chutzpah, Grande has grown the restaurant for nearly a decade. In that time, she’s seen the community change, but she’s preserved the deli’s traditional Jewish recipes — she hasn’t tweaked a thing on the menu. “We stayed true to the original concept, and we’ve kept the tradition alive. Twenty-five years ago, we had an almost entirely Jewish clientele. Now, the area is much more diverse, but I wanted to keep a piece of my culture for the next generation and show them how these comfort foods have been made from scratch.”
Grande, who moved to Canada from Israel in 1982, says hard work has played a huge role in where she is today, but when she learned about the My Main Street program, she gladly accepted the support. (Centre Street Deli had also benefited from funding from the Starter Company Plus program.) “As an immigrant, I was always taught to work, work, work, and never to depend on anyone. When representatives from the Vaughan Business and Entrepreneurship Centre reached out, I was pleasantly surprised — it was so nice to know the city cares about small businesses,” she says, adding she used the funds from the program on pricey fridge repairs and advertising.
Nana preparing orders
When you ask her what she enjoys most about the deli and her job, Grande gleefully sighs. “I love the people in this community. I love being able to throw around my Yiddish words at work — it grounds me. I love my staff — they’re good-hearted people. I love Centre Street and the things around us,” she says. “And I love that there are so many options about what comes next for the deli, including Centre Street Deli Xpress, opening in Toronto soon.”
1136 Centre Street, Vaughan