• Stuart Benson

Kaffé 1870 wants to be your deli-sandwich ‘destination’


Jeff Hardill, Leigh Irvine, and Tom Werbo (right) have been hard at work keeping Kaffé 1870 running despite the pandemic. Stuart Benson photo

By Stuart Benson


When Kaffé 1870 closed preemptively on Aug. 3, following news of possible COVID-19 contact at The Village House in Wakefield, Leigh Irvine and Jeff Hardill, co-owners of Kaffé 1870, were only concerned about the safety of their staff and clientele.


“We share one staff member with The Village House and there's just so much crosstown traffic between the two of us,” Irvine explained. “So we decided we would just wait and let contact-tracing do its job.”


Irvine explained that the staff member had worked a shift between the possible contact at The Village House and their announcement on Facebook about the possible contact, so the choice to err on the side of caution and close was a clear one. However, re-opening after closing down for a second time since the pandemic began has not been as simple.


“None of our cooks could come back and it doesn't make sense to hire somebody right now when we're at a third of our regular capacity,” explained Irvine. “It’s not that they’re sitting at home on CERB though; two [staff members] had to get other full-time jobs, and one lives with someone with a compromised immune system.”


Along with the loss of their regular cooks, Kaffé 1870’s freezer broke, forcing them to dispose of nearly $1,000 worth of spoiled product. Yet, in spite of all these struggles, the husband-and-wife bar owners said they have a plan.


“We're gonna take a little bit of a new direction,” explained Irvine. “And [Tom] Werbo is steering the ship.”


Werbo, who described his new role as a “sandwichist,” plans to bring what he calls “destination deli-sandwiches,” like the ones you might find in an authentic New York deli, to the Kaffé 1870.


“I've been doing a bunch of investigating and researching and recipe-copying that I want to try here,” Werbo explained. “There's a lack of good deli sandwiches in the area; I think Di Rienzo's [in Ottawa] would be the closest bet to anything authentic.”


Werbo said he plans to be serving “real-deal, high-quality” deli meat, including meatballs and pork, and he said he would be making and smoking the meat himself, stacking it high on the sandwiches.


“Since there's COVID and you can't go to New York for Katz Deli, you can come here and have the same experience,” Werbo added.


Irvine said that they are planning to “hopefully” launch the sandwich menu sometime the week of Aug. 24, in conjunction with longer hours, but for now, Kaffe 1870 is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.


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