April 18, 2024
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Café DeMi Opens in Teaneck

Devora and Miriam at Cafe DeMi.

Time seems to stand still at Café DeMi. You may have a meeting coming up, or carpool, but while you are at Café DeMi, you’re totally in the present. Why think ahead when you’re sipping a specially roasted coffee, savoring delicious pastry, sandwich or salad and probably chatting with a friend or two?

Café DeMi, 1400 Palisade Avenue in Teaneck, is the culmination of a long-time dream by sisters Devora Naftali and Miriam Rosenberg. “We wanted to create a place where people can come and sit, talk with their friends over a delicious piece of cake and coffee,” said Devora. “We want to be a real community space.” Devora and Miriam frequently circulate among the tables, eager to know how you’re enjoying the fruits of their labor.

The sisters designed the café to be aesthetically pleasing with an enjoyable atmosphere. ”We want everyone to feel welcome and experience our warm environment and exceptional service. Ultimately, our goal is to raise the bar on the kosher café experience and elevate our neighborhood and local community.”

Coffee takes center stage at Café DeMi. The organic beans come from farms in Costa Rica and are roasted by specialists at Buena Vista Café Organico, who also consulted with the sisters on planning Café DeMi. Most farmers there live under the poverty line and the sisters ensure that the farmers make a profit from the coffee in the café. “We are committed to using the finest coffee beans and ingredients sourced from local suppliers to ensure that our menu items are not only delicious but also ethically and sustainably produced,” said Devora. “Our premium, organic specialty coffee is prepared with best-in-class methods, utilizing a highly-trained barista and industry leading equipment. We are bringing the best and healthiest ingredients to every dish we make. That includes organic locally sourced bread, organic specialty coffee, and dairy products from the country’s best dairy farms.”

A variety of Cafe Demi specialties: bourekas plate; cappuccino; baked goods; tuna sandwich; Ester’s Favorite Salad; Jerusalem Chopped Salad.

Many of the recipes for baked goods in the café come from long held family recipes. “We come from a lineage of food connoisseurs, master entertainers and business entrepreneurs,” said Miriam. “We want to share our expertise, love for food, creativity, and passion for hospitality.”

On one wall of the café, dozens of photos depict scenes from all the places where the sisters have lived, including Israel, Los Angeles and New York, and from all the countries they have visited. In each place they indulged their love of cafés, and gathered ideas for the one they dreamed of owning one day.

Miriam is the baker at Café DeMi, while Devora oversees food. The pastry recipes come mostly from their grandmother Malka who was born and raised in Israel. The sisters said she baked for her community every Shabbat, and her creations “tasted like an angel made them.” Devora commented that Miriam inherited her talent. Miriam has preserved the recipes, and treasures that they are in her grandmother’s handwriting. She uses them as is or updates with her tweaks.

Devora and Miriam grew up mostly in New York but visited their grandmother once a year. “We were very close with her,” they both recalled. “She was very independent but she was also the best grandmother, warm and loving.”

Malka was a first-generation Israeli. Her mom was Ukrainian and her dad was Safardi Yemenite. Her husband passed away when she was only 40 and she provided for the family. She never remarried and continued to live in Tel Aviv until she passed away in 2021. Devora and Miriam said she loved to sit in cafés with friends and loved art and culture. Her daughter Ruthie, Devora and Miriam’s mother, grew up with her love of art and good food, and so did they. “Baking and cooking were ingrained in us,” said Miriam. Devora plans the sandwiches and salads for the café and Ruthie helps her daughters in the Cafe DeMi kitchen.

Pecan shortbread and chocolate chip cookies.

Café DeMi opened in late November. It only took about six months to build but Devora and Miriam had been thinking about and planning their café for the last 10 years. Devora had been working in a renewable energy company and moved to Teaneck with her husband when she had her first child. Miriam had been working in hotel management in Israel until Covid, when the hotels closed, while also getting her MA in sociology. After finishing her degree, she left Israel and moved to Cedarhurst. The sisters began to get serious about opening a café and started working with consultants who are long-time friends and mentors.

One day last spring, Devora passed the location where Café DeMi is now and felt it would be a good location for their long dreamed of café. A realtor they were working with called to say she had this space and they should look at it. “We saw the space in May and closed in July,” said Devora. Miriam moved to Teaneck and is managing the café full time. Devora is on maternity leave after giving birth to her third child.

I’ve been to Café DeMi a few times. When I first stopped in to arrange an interview, I left with a slice of dairy free, gluten free pumpkin loaf, which I had for breakfast the next morning. I loved the moist texture and just right combination of spices. I visited for breakfast with a friend a few days later. I had a rich, warming latte with a Mediterranean yogurt parfait—smooth Greek yogurt, topped with tahini, granola and Silan (date syrup) while my friend had a large buttery croissant with a pleasant crunch on the outside and layers of melt in your mouth pastry inside. When I went for lunch with a friend, we split a smoked tuna nicoise salad and a sandwich with fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomato puree, pesto, and a balsamic glaze on sourdough focaccia. The bread had that coveted sourdough tang but was soft enough to bite without the resistance that sourdough bread often has. The slightly sweet balsamic glaze over the basil and tomato harmonized wonderfully and added a delicious touch. For dessert we each had a cappuccino and split a chocolate croissant with just the right amount of filling so it was sweet and chocolate-y without being cloying.

At our interview at the café, Miriam brought over a piece of Ugat Biskvitim, a household staple in Israel, personalized by each baker. Layers of tea biscuits are interspersed with whipped cream for a heavenly vanilla experience. Miriam brought out another plate of dessert samples that I took home and nibbled over the next two days. Who can resist butter pound cake, lemon poppyseed cake, date cookie and another slice of Ugat Biskvitim? This slice was topped with a layer of rich chocolate ganache, as it is usually served in the restaurant.

Coffee or tea, breakfast or lunch, visit Café DeMi at 1400 Palisade Avenue, Teaneck for a relaxing and delicious break in the day. Café Demi is open daily, except Shabbat, from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.. Follow on Instagram @thecafedemi.

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