A new twist on sandwiches


The recently opened Café Lovi in ​​Santa Monica specializes in traditional Jewish challah bread, which is used to make pastries and sandwiches. PHOTO BY CHRIS MORTENSON

Café Lovi brings challah to Santa Monica

By Michèle Robinson

The recently opened Café Lovi in ​​Santa Monica revisits the challah to create a new kind of sandwich.

Owner Benedetta Jasmine Guetta uses her Italian Jewish heritage to make these sandwiches made from traditional braided Jewish bread.

For those unfamiliar with challah, semi-sweet, chewy bread is typically eaten on major Jewish holidays like Shabbat, and its origins date back to Biblical times.

“Challah is our special thing,” Guetta said. “It’s my favorite food to eat anytime of the day, and it makes the best sandwiches. Everyone who tries it loves it.

Guetta opened Café Lovi on October 11, just 10 days after purchasing the space from his previous employers at Priscio.

Before opening her café, Guetta was a waitress in this Italian café.

Hard hit by the pandemic, the former owners sold the business to pursue a different career.

Fortunately, Guetta was able to buy the place and renovate it.

“It took two days to clean the kitchen, redesign the space and paint it white,” Guetta said.

“I was on a tight budget so the interior is minimalist, but I wanted the place to feel new, bright and clean.”

To make the coffee more hygienic, Guetta used disposable and compostable cups, cutlery and plates.

She wanted everything to be single-use to ensure the highest hygiene standards, while being environmentally friendly.

“I’m striving to be a certified green business in Santa Monica by the end of the month,” Guetta said.

The name of the cafe was inspired by Guetta’s nickname, Lovi, given to it by his sweetheart.

Guetta moved from Italy two years ago to be here with her partner and has since fallen in love with Santa Monica.

“The people are so nice,” Guetta said.

“The day I opened, a random lady who lives nearby showed up with roses to wish me good luck.”

Guetta is also a food writer specializing in Jewish cuisine and has co-authored cookbooks in Italy.

In 2009, she created a food blog called “Labna”, the only Italian blog dedicated to Jewish cuisine.

She is also a food photographer and her work has been published in several media in Italy and abroad.

His latest book, and the first in English, is called “Cooking alla Giudia”. It is expected in March.

The book focuses on the Judeo-Italian tradition and took about three years to research and write.

“I interviewed grandmothers all over the country to get the right recipes,” Guetta said.

“Jewish cuisine is what I write about, but writing is a very lonely job, so I opened Café Lovi to get food out of the pages of the real world. “

Guetta couldn’t run the cafe without her chef, Christopher Swall.

He prepares the sandwiches and other dishes, while Guetta works behind the coffee machine.

A native of Chicago, Swall has over 20 years of experience and has worked at numerous restaurants in Los Angeles including Birdie G, Eveleigh, and Tower 12.

Besides its challah sandwiches, Café Lovi’s menu includes pastries and sweets, salads, coffee, drinks and homemade lemonade.

Their most popular dish on the menu is the Turkey Avocado Sandwich. The team calls their favorite the pastrami sandwich, which features pickled red cabbage and beer mustard, both homemade.

The most popular drinks are lattes, especially flavored drinks like rose and lavender.

Although Café Lovi is not kosher certified, its food is in this style.

The restaurant does not serve pork or shellfish, nor does it mix meat and milk in its dishes.

As well as offering customers a traditional challah, they also have a gluten-free and vegan challah option.

“People, especially celiacs, are very grateful for this choice,” Guetta said.

Even though Café Lovi has only been open for a short time, the staff see loyal customers.

“Customers keep coming back all the time, because challah is honestly addictive,” Guetta said.

When asked what she hoped to see in the future, Guetta said, “I would like to slowly implement some Jewish-Italian dishes on a weekly rotation and include some recipes from my next book.”

But for now, Guetta appreciates what she has accomplished so far.

“Running a business is a lot of fun,” Guetta said.

“It’s also hard work, of course. Feeding people and seeing them enjoy our food really warms my heart. I like bringing people and food together.

Cafe Lovi
1912 Broadway, suite 100,
Santa Monica
Open Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch, and delivery is available.

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