February 22, 2020

NYC’s Russ & Daughters Holds L.A. Pop-Up

Smoked fish platter; Photos by Steven Mirkin

It was possible to believe a part of New York’s Lower East Side had moved west, as Russ & Daughters, the iconic 105-year-old New York City eatery, brought its smoked fish, bagels and babkas to Venice for a pop-up brunch at the revamped Rose Venice on June 8, and crowds lined up for up to two hours to sample the fare.

The event was a dream a long time in the making for Rose Venice chef Jason Neroni. A Southern California native who worked in New York from the late 1990s until 2010, he was a regular customer at Russ & Daughters and became friends with Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper, the fourth generation of the Russ family in the business. When Neroni returned to Los Angeles, he’d constantly ask them, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to get you guys out to L.A.?” 

Busy with expanding their business in New York, they repeatedly turned him down until this year, when they finally said yes. Russ & Daughters shipped 720 bagels, over 100 pounds of salmon, 40 pounds of smoked sable, cream cheese spreads and 100 black-and-white cookies to L.A. Rose Venice supplied the tomatoes, onions, eggs and labor.

One dish you wouldn’t expect to find on Russ & Daughters’ New York menu, Neroni said, is smoked salmon pizza. “It wouldn’t be L.A. without a smoked salmon pizza,” he said. Neroni worked in 1997 at Spago for chef Wolfgang Puck, who has been serving smoked salmon pizza since 1982, so they decided to add it to the pop-up menu. 

“By 10:30 a.m., the cafe was packed, with a line snaking through the restaurant and into the parking lot.”

By 10:30 a.m., the cafe was packed, with a line snaking through the restaurant and into the parking lot. Within two hours of the 8 a.m. opening, the potato latkes and babka croissants were sold out. By noon, Neroni said more than 650 plates had been sent out of the kitchen. By early afternoon, more than a thousand people had been served. Russ Tupper, who could be seen slicing lox as you walked into the café, pronounced the event a success, telling the Journal, “This was beyond what we could have expected … a real joy.” 

Mike Colasuano and Jen Ruppmann at the pop-up event. Photos by Steve Mirkin.

The customers were a mix of East Coast expats and Angelenos curious to see what the fuss was about. Couple Mike Colasuono and Jen Ruppermann recently moved here from the East Coast. Ruppermann said the transition hasn’t been easy, so they came for “a taste of home.” They were particularly pleased with their Pastrami Russ, a sandwich of pastrami-cured salmon on a bagel with sauerkraut and mustard. “It’s kind of a Reuben with lox,” Colasuono said. 

A former New Yorker, Jason Cohen was waiting for counter service and said he was looking for bagels and lox like the ones he’d grown up with, and he wanted to introduce his young daughter to a genuine babka. 

Angelenos Kira and Carissa read about the pop-up online and decided to check it out. They called their bagels and lox “great” and “amazing.” 

Asked if the pop-up was a precursor to a possible Los Angeles outpost of Russ & Daughters, Russ Tupper said, “Short answer? No.” Russ Federman said the question comes up in every conversation she has with Angelenos. “Everyone has a strong opinion where we should open,” she said, “and everyone lobbies for the neighborhood closest to them.”