Snowdown Delicatessen Ltd
By Kelsey Rolfe

Staying power

Seated in a grey-cushioned booth sipping at a glass of water, Ian Morantz glances around Snowdon Deli. On a Sunday afternoon well after the hectic lunch hour rush, the deli is quiet but about a third of the tables are still full with young families, couples, friends and solitary diners. Ian says, “If I look around I can see four or five people right now who are here once a week.”

Ian adds that the Jewish-style deli does benefit from tourists seeking out Montreal smoked meat, but its clientele still skews toward regular patrons who have been coming here for years.

And the customers aren’t the only ones sticking around – most of the 40-plus staff members and the entire four-person management team have been around years, even decades.

“We have good staff, friendly people. Customers have their favourite server that they like to wait for,” Ian says. “It’s like a very large family for many of us.”

We have good staff, friendly people. Customers have their favourite server that they like to wait for - Ian Morantz, owner
The Snowdon Deli management team is made up of a close-knit team.
The Snowdon Deli management team is comprised of Hart Fishman (left), Ian Morantz (middle), Sophy Agelopoulous and her husband Yanni Papoulis (right). Ian's daughter is also pictured. Photo courtesy of Snowdon Deli

Twist of fate

Over the years, Snowdon Deli has become a Côte des Neiges staple and ranks among some of the most well-known Montreal smoked meat joints. But if there hadn’t been a shortage of sewing machines after the Second World War, the Decarie Boulevard institution may not have existed.

Growing up, the brothers had experience in the clothing industry, and also behind the counter of the Outremont deli owned by their sister Pearl and her husband, Ben Ash. When Abe returned home from the war with $1,000 in compensation from the federal government for an injury he received overseas, the brothers decided to put the money to good use and open a business. A clothing business was their first choice, but with sewing machines tied up in the war effort, the plan was scuppered.

“So as a fallback they said okay, let's open a deli,” recalls Ian, now the senior member of the deli’s management team. “And the rest is history.”

A nice sandwich club
Image credit: Courtesy Snowdon Deli
Breafast can be had at Snowdon Deli
Image credit: Courtesy Snowdon Deli

A big team

The deli was founded in 1946 by Abe Morantz, Ian’s father, and his brother Joe. The third Morantz brother, Phil, joined two years later. Ian started working at the deli in 1978, learning the tricks of his family’s trade behind the counter. In 1999 he partnered with John Agelopoulous, another long-time employee, to take over managing the deli.

Running the business wasn’t Ian’s first choice – “I wanted to do anything but for the longest time,” he recalls  – but over the years he grew to love it, thanks to “getting to know the customers and just feeling comfortable in the place.”

When John decided to retire, his daughter Sophy and her husband Yanni Papoulis took over his shares in the business. The current management team is rounded out by Hart Fishman, Ian’s cousin and Phil’s grandson.

The upright beams in the middle of the Snowdon Deli were part of the original dividing wall between the deli and a pharmacy.
The upright beams in the middle of the restaurant were part of the original dividing wall between the deli and a pharmacy. Photo by Kelsey Rolfe

Changing with the times

Over the years the deli has grown in every way. When the pharmacy next door chose not to renew its lease in the 1960s, the Morantz family bought the entire building and expanded the deli into that space. The two upright beams in the middle of the restaurant were part of the original dividing wall.

The menu has also grown with the times. While smoked meat is still what Snowdon Deli is known for, they also offer full plate meals like all-day breakfast and a hot brisket dinner.

“What we always had was basically cold and hot smoked meat sandwiches and other assorted deli meats,” Ian says, “but we’ve started making it more like a homemade meal, so customers can come and sit down and have matzo ball soup and brisket, or kasha and bowties – a real Jewish style dinner.”

The Morantz family bought out the entire two-storey building in the 1960s to expand Snowdon Deli.
The Morantz family bought out the entire two-storey building in the 1960s. The deli is on the main level and food prep and an office are on the second floor. Photo by Kelsey Rolfe
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