Toronto deli Ben & Izzys closed again after fire

Firefighter at Ben & Izzy’s on Dec. 28 FACEBOOK PHOTO
Firefighter at Ben & Izzy’s on Dec. 28 FACEBOOK PHOTO

After being closed for much of the summer and most of the fall, retro kosher deli Ben & Izzy’s will be closed again “for a few months” following a fire at the restaurant.

According to a spokesperson for Toronto Fire Services, a call came in on Dec. 28 at 12:43 p.m. about a fire in the deli’s basement.

He said the blaze was categorized as a two-alarm basement fire, which resulted in 12 fire trucks and 45 firefighters being dispatched to the scene. The fire was put out by 1:14 p.m.

While no injuries were reported, he said he couldn’t speak to whether people were in the restaurant, located on Bathurst Street south of Wilson Avenue, at the time the fire broke out, and he had no information about the fire’s cause at this time.

“Everyone is fine. Deli is not,” read a tweet from the Ben & Izzy’s Twitter account at 2:43 p.m. on Dec. 28. About an hour later, another tweet read:

On Dec. 29, the restaurant tweeted and posted on its Facebook page that it will be “out of commission” for a few months.  

Ben & Izzy’s owners Ben Venasio and Izzy Bernath did not respond to The CJN’s multiple attempts to reach them.

The restaurant, which first opened in 2013, was known in the Toronto kosher community for its old-school delicatessen approach to meats, which were hand-cured and smoked daily on site.

In late July, the deli posted on social media that it would be “closed for summer.” A month later, this message was posted on its Twitter account:

The CJN tried to reach the owners at that time, but they would not respond to phone calls, e-mails or Facebook messages.

In September and October, several postings on the deli’s social media accounts announced upcoming dates for its reopening, but they were ultimately postponed, and the restaurant didn’t reopen until the middle of November.

Tzvi Hirschman, the owner of Toronto Kosher, a kosher butcher and grocery located in the same plaza as Ben & Izzy’s, said he saw fire trucks outside the deli the day of the fire, but didn’t speak to the owners or any of the employees, and his own store was not affected.

He noted that since it reopened recently, the deli was only open in the evening hours for dinner, and not during the day for lunch.

“Business was slow. Business wasn’t as good as people think it was,” Hirschman said.