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[whitespace] Russian Deli wins approval to expand its operation

Campbell--Rimma Brisker, owner of the Russian Cafe & Deli on Winchester Blvd., can't believe I've already eaten lunch when I come to meet her. After a tour of the deli and repeated offerings, neither can I. Homemade borscht, imported smoked fish, Canadian pickles and thick chocolate truffle cake tempt from inside an old-fashioned deli case.

From the glass refrigerator, she flips open a turquoise-blue cake box. "Smell," she says, waving me toward the cake box. Next she pops open a pickle container. A tart, vinegary aroma wafts from the glass jar.

"Next time," Brisker scolds, "you come before you eat."

For the past 12 years the Russian Cafe & Deli has served as a gathering spot for Russians, Poles and Romanians, and also anyone who enjoys classic New York deli cold cuts, homemade Russian foods and international specialty items.

Besides the dishes that Brisker and her chefs cook up each morning, hundreds of colorful, packaged items from around the world fill the deli's shelves. There are blue tins of Russian caviar, boxes of chocolate wafers from Poland, Israeli olives in little glass jars and colorful boxes of black currant and aronia juices. There is mineral water from Georgia, Russia, marinated red peppers from Yugoslavia, halvah from Turkey and a Russian red wine that Stalin used to drink.

Soon Brisker and her husband Efim will be expanding these offerings, opening a full-blown restaurant next to the deli, complete with traditional Russian music and later hours.

"It's just going to be a nice, friendly atmosphere for people to listen to music and make new friends," Rimma Brisker says. "My customers are like my family. We treat them like family."

Last Tuesday night, the Campbell Planning Commission approved the Briskers' request to expand their existing deli into a neighboring location and to open a 2,200-square-foot restaurant with a full bar and a small dance floor. The deli will remain in operation separately, the two businesses operating side-by-side.

Although the Briskers asked for permission to stay open until 2 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, complaints from neighbors led the Planning Commission to limit that time frame to midnight.

"Hard liquor, live entertainment, dancing until 2 a.m.--it would all be within 30 feet of bedroom windows," said Joe Long, whose mother owns the apartment complex behind the deli. "The parking would be within 10 feet of the bedroom windows."

In an attempt to appease both the neighbors and the Briskers, planning commissioners voted unanimously for a one-year trial permit, allowing the Russian restaurant to serve hard liquor and operate until midnight on the weekends. Opponents have 10 days to appeal this decision to the Campbell City Council. The police department and the council must still approve the live music permit either way.

"It's not going to be a bar, it's not going to be a club, it's going to be a family restaurant," Brisker explained. "We don't want to bother anyone."

If in one year no one has been bothered, the Briskers can reapply to the Planning Commission to keep their late hours or even extend those hours until 2 a.m.

Rimma Brisker says she wants to accommodate her customers who come from as far away as Monterey, Calistoga and Burlingame. Each year, she and her husband host a holiday party for their loyal customers--food, dancing and drink.

"Last year," Brisker laughs, "one man dance so hard, his pants break."
Cecily Barnes

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Web extra to the May 6-12, 1999 issue of Metro.

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