Filicori Zecchini, an Italian coffee shop with locations in Towson and Baltimore, has received a new kosher certification from Star K, effective Tuesday.
The establishment, now certified Star D (Star K’s dairy designation), recently encountered a setback when Rabbi Zvi Weiss, its previous mashgiach, pulled his Vaad HaKashrus due to the recently opened downtown location, which necessitated more supervision than he was prepared to provide, he said.
As Weiss prepared to withdraw his involvement with Filicori, confusion due to discrepancies between what he and Star K consider kosher resulted in Filicori being without kosher certification for the past two weeks.
Earlier this week, Filicori had been working on new packaging for its sandwiches so that they can be transported and on cleaning and kashering the equipment in the kitchen.
Jordan Pompey, a partner of Filicori and manager of the downtown location, noted a few changes that occurred during the Star K certification process such as the sandwich boxes being separate from the rest of the food and its brand of tuna being changed.
However, according to Rabbi Sholom Tendler, the Star K mashgiach now working with Filicori, the main concern was that the kitchens needed more supervision than Weiss had previously provided in order to be certified as kosher by Star K: “The various sandwiches brought a higher degree of complexity to the kosher certification needs. There is actual cooking going on, so fresh vegetables need to be checked for insects, and that requires on-site supervision.”
Filicori owner Oren Orbach said the Towson location operated under Weiss’ “very minimal requirements” for 16 months. When the downtown location opened, “the rabbi suddenly changed his mind and asked for different requirements,” Orbach said. Weiss’ certification was terminated after he informed the owners of Filicori that the new location was too big for him and two locations were too much.
“I think it was more personal and less religious,” Orbach said. “I tried to talk to him, and he would not talk to me, only to my wife.”
Orbach said that they were only given a one-month extension of the certification after his wife told Weiss that she did not understand the change of rules with the downtown location when everything had been fine at Towson.
“So since Rabbi Weiss changed his mind about how kashrut had to be done, we decided to work with Star K and Rabbi Tendler,” said Orbach. “We felt that Rabbi Weiss was not helping Jewish people with their businesses.”
For his part, Weiss said that it was a straightforward issue.
“They now have two locations, and I would only be able to do it if they put them both under my supervision, but I just didn’t want to take a second location under my wing,” he said. “We couldn’t come to an agreement, and we ended our relationship. They had ample time to get other certification. I gave them an extra month. I have no kashrut concerns.”
Said Yonatan Lederman, a Filicori manager: “We feel so bad that everything has happened like this. We just want people to know that we have not changed our food or our view on being kosher; this is just how it happened.”
Filicori will be hosting a grand reopening at both of its locations on Sunday to celebrate its Star D certification. The owners intend to make it a big affair with extended hours, specials deals on food and giveaways to be announced.
“We are very excited about being certified by Star K so that we can serve the Jewish community best,” Orbach said. “We want to be the best, so we got the best.”