Three Things You Didn’t Know is a reoccurring series where we dig up interesting facts about your favorite chef, bartender, somm, cheese monger, cicerone, GM, or industry insider.
In the past three years, Josh Pollack, owner of Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen, has opened three restaurants: the original Five Points location twice (due to a devastating fire in 2016) and, in May, an outpost at the Stanley Marketplace. But bagels dominated his life long before he came to the Denver dining scene. Pollack, who grew up in New Jersey across the Hudson River from New York City, was practically weaned on the staple. So much so that, as a student at the University of Colorado, he booked his flights home around Ronnie’s Hot Bagels and Cafe’s hours. One time, when his father called to say he was too busy to take him by Ronnie’s on the way home, Pollack told his dad not to worry about it; he promptly rented a car and drove himself from the airport to the shop. “Bagels make me happy, and when I set out to do the bagel shop, it was to make others happy,” Pollack says. “Now there’s this whole other generation that knows and loves the food I grew up with and they get to enjoy it here in the greatest place in the country.”
In keeping with his love of all things New York City, Pollack will soon debut Famous Original Ray’s Pizza, a grab-and-go slice shop on Welton Street. It will be modeled after Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village where folks order whatever’s hot. Pollack says to expect fresh, simple slices with minimal customization. “We’re not just adding toppings to a slice and putting it back in the oven. That isn’t pizza.”
Pollack is passionate about all things food (just ask him about tacos, or the difference between coal-fired, wood-fired, or deck-oven pizza), and he believes in teaching the next generation about the importance of sharing good food. For more on Pollack’s background and food philosophy, read on for three things you didn’t know.
1. “Even more influential than Ronnie Manus [of Ronnie’s] was Bobby Shorr. Bobby was a second generation deli man and his daughter, Jen, and I have been best friends since kindergarten. He owned four bagels shops, a deli, and a kosher grocery. Their house was always a destination and the cupboard and fridge were always stocked. Jen wouldn’t even be home and I’d go in and make myself a pastrami on rye. I started working at [the deli] for Jewish holidays. When I came out to CU and I realized the culture didn’t exist here, I had a breakdown and I called Bobby. He said, ‘Passover is coming up, why don’t you come home and work, you can eat the whole time you’re here.’ When it came time to cut me a check, I asked to be paid me in food instead. So he packed a duffle bag with pastrami, corned beef, lox, coleslaw, egg salad, bagels—everything—with ice packs. I checked it and brought it back to the dorms where I started a little black market. I did that for every holiday.”
2. “The Bagel Dude [Pollack’s Instagram handle] really incorporates who I am. ‘The Dude’ calls on how I approach things and with the [Rosenberg’s] fire that name really abides. I learned to always stay positive really early. I lost my mom to cancer when I was 17 and you grow up pretty fast. There are so many things we can’t control but we can control how we experience them. That call [about the fire] was the worst but if you’re positive, positive things attract to you. We heard from our peers and customers and we started doing pop-ups. We weren’t allowed to keep the money [for insurance reasons] so we donated it all to charity, we connected with our community. People reached out to support us. As a business owner and entrepreneur that makes you feel more brave. We’re doing a lot right now [with the Stanley and the pizza place] but as long as you’re there and you serve your community, supporters, and customers, they will support you.”
3. “Rosenberg is my mom’s maiden name. My mom always believed in me and told me I could do anything. I had another name picked out but Rosenberg’s, which had been on the table all along, sounds like a deli that’s been a deli forever. It also ties to the Rosenberg family culture where bagels and lox were always a centerpiece. When we would do a family outing there was always a fight or drama and my mom would get stressed. If you added having to cook, that made it more stressful. To save the family events, we would go to Ronnie’s or pick something up in the city. Also on that side of the family, I’m the fifth generation to be born in New York City. I come from a line of soldiers, and those in real estate and the diamond business. When my grandfather returned from the war, he started building strip malls. It’s cool to feel my lineage. I’m coming out here to build something my grandkids will be talking about.”
Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen, 725 E. 26th Ave., 720-440-9880 (Five Points) and 2501 Daliah St. (Stanley Marketplace), 720-990-6743, rosenbergsbagels.com
Coming Soon: Famous Original Ray’s Pizza, 715 E. 26th Ave. (inside 715 Club)