January 27, 2020

Factor’s Famous Deli Celebrates Turning 70

“If you take care of this place, it will always take care of you.”

Those are the words the late Herman Markowitz used to say to his family about his beloved business, Factor’s Famous Deli. His philosophy continues to resonate among his descendants and staff.

On May 15, the West Los Angeles dining institution on Pico Boulevard will mark its 70th anniversary with a dinner at The Mark for Events in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Abe and Esther Factor opened the delicatessen in May 1948 in “just one little room,” Herman’s daughter Suzee Markowitz told the Journal. When the Factors decided to retire in 1969, Herman, who until that point had worked at Nate’n Al’s in Beverly Hills, purchased the deli. He died four years later.

Herman and his wife, Lili, were both Holocaust survivors and immigrated to the United States in 1947. They originally settled in Cleveland but moved to Los Angeles in 1963. “[Dad] thought there was more opportunity in California for his five children,” said Suzee, who manages the deli’s front of house operations. Lili, 92, is still very much involved in the business to this day. “She’s our queen,” Suzee said.

Suzee’s sister, Debbie Ullman, runs the full-service catering arm of the deli, and their brother Marvin, who has overseen the expansion of Factor’s over the years, “is our visionary,” Suzee said.

Renowned Hollywood emcee Billy Harris will host the 70th anniversary bash as part of his Billy Harris Dinner Series, and proceeds from the live auction portion of the evening will benefit the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“Factor’s is more than a restaurant. It represents community.” — Suzee Markowitz

All the chefs participating in the (nonkosher) $218-a-plate dinner are Jewish. Offerings will include canapés by Factor’s, including mini Reubens and latkes with smoked salmon. Josiah Citrin of the Michelin-starred Santa Monica restaurant Melisse and the Charcoal restaurant in Venice, will apply his classic techniques to gefilte fish, while Micah Wexler and Michael Kassar of Wexler’s Deli will craft a refined take on borscht with short ribs.

Other chefs participating include Bruce Kalman of Union and Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market in Pasadena; Jonathan Waxman, who will open a new restaurant at the Westfield Century City mall; and Nancy Silverton of Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza and Chi Spacca restaurants.

Chef Adam Perry Lang, who will be opening a steakhouse in Hollywood, plans to serve his Passover brisket with farfel. “I love everything about cooking and eating Jewish food,” Lang said in an email.

For dessert, sweets maven Hedy Goldsmith will serve a Babka Napoleon.

“It’s an honor to do what we do,” Suzee said. “[Factor’s] is more than a restaurant. It represents community.”

To purchase tickets, visit billyharris.com/dinner-series.