The kosher food scene in Boston just got more exciting—the Mediterranean food truck and restaurant The Chubby Chickpea is now glatt kosher. I chatted with executive chef Avi Shemtov about his choice to go kosher and what not to miss on his menu. And yes, they’re open on Christmas Day!
Tell me about The Chubby Chickpea: when did you start it, and why?
The Chubby Chickpea restaurant, located in Canton, opened in 2010. It had been a project in the back of my head for three years. I’m a first-generation American—my father is Israeli and always owned restaurants in Israel. I always thought people would flock to an authentic Middle-Eastern restaurant in America, but I wanted to do it without the old-time Israeli packaging. It’s kind of the difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Many people think of Israel as a third-world country, but I wanted people to see how modern the food is and how accessible the dishes are for everyone.
You just recently went kosher. What does that actually mean? What’s the process? And doesn’t that mean everything becomes more expensive?
It means a lot of things. Our food is now under the supervision of KVH (Vaad Harabonim of New England), with Rabbi Zalman Krems serving as our mashgiach (supervisor of the kosher status). The meat dishes are slightly more expensive, but our vegetarian dishes have not been raised one cent.
You’re in the unique position of having both a brick-and-mortar restaurant and a food truck. Which is easier to run?
That’s like asking if your 7-year-old or 3-year-old is easier to parent! Both of them are really different, and I love them both. It really depends on the day. We’re in the unique position of having the brick-and-mortar restaurant first. The only other one I can think of like that is Redbones Barbecue in Somerville. For us, that’s our model and it works.
For a reader coming to your truck or restaurant for the first time, what is one must-have on the menu?
The falafel! We wouldn’t be The Chubby Chickpea if we couldn’t hang our hat on it. If you order it off our truck, it will have been fried within three minutes of it being served to you. We import the best, fluffiest pita from Israel, and we make our own laffa, the flatbread wrap, another option when ordering your falafel. [Molly’s note: I’ve actually had their falafel, and it’s excellent!]