There's bad news for lovers of square fried knishes: The Long Island company that apparently is the nation's only major producer of them won't be able to resume production until at least Dec. 23 and possibly the week after.
Water used to extinguish an electrical fire at Gabila's Knishes' Copiague plant Sept. 24 irreparably damaged the machine that forms and fries the beloved potato pillows, a traditional Jewish food. Company official Stacey Ziskin Gabay said the company is waiting for a fabricator -- a local company she declined to name -- to complete a new 18-foot long machine to replace the one that was damaged.
"Now it's looking like either Monday Dec. 23 or perhaps the week after, unfortunately," Gabay, who is executive vice president and general counsel, said when asked about the restart of production.
Although Gabila and other companies continue to produce round, baked knishes, the halt in production of the fried square varieties has led to a nationwide shortage of them and a field day for punsters in the national news media, employing phrases like "shock and oy" to report the crisis. Gabila's says it produces about 15 million knishes a year, about 12 million of them fried.
The most popular of the fried ones contain only potatoes, Gabay said, but the company also adds kasha and spinach to some and produces some round knishes with cheese instead of potatoes. Gabila's also makes matzo balls, blintzes and latkes.
Gabila's, founded in Brooklyn in the 1920s by immigrant Elia Gabay of what now is Serbia, moved from Williamsburg to Copiague, its only current location, around 2005, said Gabay, and it now has 50 employees.
Gabila's claims to be the world's largest producer of fried square knishes and Gabay says she knows of no other company in this country that produces them.
One Gabila customer, Ronnie Dragoon, owner-founder of Ben's, a kosher deli chain that sold about 110,000 of the square knishes a year, says he knows of no other maker.
"There really is no competitor for that product," said Dragoon, who has six stores in Carle Place, Greenvale and Woodbury on Long Island and one each in Queens, Manhattan and in Boca Raton, Fla.