Restaurant review: New Izzy and Mo's Luncheonette is a wonderful delicatessen

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

Some local places bake their own bagels. Others roast their own corned beef or season their own pastrami. A handful cure salmon, make alcoholic drinks or produce soda pops. A precious few hand-fashion knishes. But only one Columbus establishment does all of this: Izzy and Mo's Luncheonette in Victorian Village, a sensational new restaurant.

Open since May, Izzy and Mo's is the breakfast and lunch offshoot of Till Dynamic Fare, to which it's connected. Since it shares Till's talented owner-chef Magdiale Wolmark, it inherits his fastidious approach to sourcing top ingredients and scratch cooking. But the new eatery, which is named after Wolmark's parents (Israel and Moriah), employs these meticulous practices in the unlikely setting of a delicatessen.

Many delis look as overstuffed with supplies as the towering sandwiches they serve, but tiny Izzy and Mo's sports an uncluttered and arty design. Its sushi-like counter and white brick walls with mandalas plus playful posters signal that Izzy and Mo's is both serious and fun. The soundtrack - expect bands such as the Velvet Underground and Roxy Music - conveys its relish for a little edge on its classic hits.

Obviously this is no ordinary deli. But like its best competitors, Izzy and Mo's comforting food puts you in that great deli mood. Only it does so with fresher, more focused and more flavorful components.

Housemade beverages eclipse the usual expectations. That old delicatessen standby - celery soda - is offered ($4), but is more refreshing than, say, Dr. Brown's ubiquitous version. Although the Cold Mocha ($4) looks gritty and is curiously made with tahini, it tastes like a delicious coffee-halvah-chocolate smoothie. If something stronger is calling, intense schnapps created with cherries from the restaurant's backyard will answer sweetly.

As with these drinks, deli cuisine favorites are reinvigorated through great ingredients and rigorous techniques. For instance, a steaming bowl of ostensibly simple chicken soup ($5) - strewn with potatoes and schmaltz-generating skin - flaunted so much pure, roasted organic chicken flavor that it seemed able to cure a thousand colds.

While delicious, knishes can be gooey and greasy belly bombs, so eating Izzy and Mo's lighter, flaky and biscuit-like pastry filled with onion-scented mashed potatoes ($4) verges on a revelation. Ditto for the blintz I tried ($6) - a lovely crepe draped around ricotta cheese and plopped atop a tangy-sweet rhubarb compote.

I'm crazy for salmon and cream cheese bagel sandwiches with capers, tomato and red onion. The Izzy Bagel ($9) layers those aforementioned garnishes with tender, not-salty house gravlax plus rich "caviar cream cheese" in a crisp-yet-chewy bagel - and shames most renditions. Like other sandwiches, it's attractively plated with vegetable pickles and a clean-tasting deviled egg.

The equally outstanding Cuban Reuben ($12) demonstrates affinities between another deli stalwart, the pastrami and corned beef combo, and a Cuban sandwich. Its delectable meats - peppery, smoky-as-barbecue pastrami plus succulent and gently aromatic (with clove and allspice) grass-fed corned beef - exhibit admirably restrained saltiness. To complete the masterpiece, these are tucked into a crisped and dense, high-quality roll holding fresh pickles, pungent yellow mustard, mild sauerkraut and melted sharp cheese.

Jerusalem bagels are prominent in Israel - where they're paired with dips - but uncommon in America. This makes the addictive Mo Bagel ($9) even more treasurable. Similar to a jumbo soft pretzel, it's a huge oblong loop sprinkled with zatar and served with good, coarse hummus plus sweet-and-salty chopped figs and olives.

Like Jerusalem bagels, sufganiyot ($3)sound exotic, but are easy to love - they're jelly donuts. And anyone fond of yeasty coffee cake swirled with chocolate will love the babka here ($3). If you want to try these delicacies - and you do - you need to go to Izzy and Mo's.

Izzy & Mo's Luncheonette

249 King Ave., Victorian Village

614-298-9986

www.izzyandmodeli.com