Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rosh Hashanah menu at Di Pescara

Di Pescara is an upscale Italian restaurant in Northbrook Court. It is part of the very popular Lettuce Entertain You chain of Chicago-area restaurants. These restaurants are very popular with Jews. A relative told me last night Di Pescara is offering a Rosh Hashanah menu.

To me, this is deeply offensive. Aside from the shomer yontif concerns of driving to the restaurant and paying for the meals, Di Pescara is a non-kosher restaurant that includes crab legs on the menu. (Are crab legs on the Rosh Hashanah menu? I hope not.) If the restaurant stipulated: new/cleaned equipment dedicated for this menu; all-kosher, dairy-free ingredients with kosher wine; by prepaid reservation only--that would be all right. Not strictly kosher without supervision, but at least following the spirit of traditional Jewish cuisine. But we know that will not be the case. The restaurant will welcome Jewish diners right around candle-lighting Friday night (6:35), for lunch on Saturday and dinner on Saturday night. The restaurant will offer the Rosh Hashanah menu. Round challah too?

I realize most Rosh Hashanah celebrants will not be eating a strictly kosher meal. But at least families should have the meal at home, away from the distractions of a non-kosher restaurant where it's just another Friday or Saturday night.

I saw an ad in a Jewish newspaper in 2003 for a Yom Kippur dinner (after sunset, on Kol Nidre/Yom Kippur night) for secular Jews. The ad explained, "Most Jews aren't religious. This dinner is for Jews who don't observe Yom Kippur." I was very curious about the response the advertiser received. Perhaps he didn't know that the percentage of Jews who fast on Yom Kippur is actually higher than the percentage of Jews who believe in G-d. (Hedging their bets.) And just his luck: the Chicago Cubs played the decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series that night, beating Atlanta to advance to the National League Championship Series. So I suspect most secular Jews were too busy watching the game to attend his dinner.

I thought of that dinner when I heard about Di Pescara. I see a distinction between targeting Jews with non-kosher food; and labeling a restaurant's non-kosher food as a Rosh Hashanah menu. Remember the photo of the ham at the deli labeled "Chanukah special"? Let the Jews make their own holiday food.

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