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Cecil’s Deli Owner David Leventhal Has Died at 85

Leventhal and his wife, Sheila, ran St. Paul’s beloved Jewish deli for more than 40 years

Justine Jones is the editor of Eater Twin Cities.

David Leventhal, owner of Cecil’s Deli for more than four decades, has died of cancer at age 85. The Star Tribune was first to report the news.

Leventhal came into the Cecil’s family by way of his wife, Sheila Leventhal, whose parents, Cecil and Faye Glickman, opened the delicatessen in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood in 1949. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1939, Leventhal moved with his family to North Minneapolis when he was 11 years old, according to his obituary. He graduated from North High School, and after four years of studying Japanese history at the University of Minnesota and a stint in the Air National Guard, he married Sheila and got a job at Cecil’s, where, he told the Pioneer Press in 2019, he stayed for 18 years.

The couple bought the business from the Glickmans in 1980 and went on to run it for the next 40-some years, upholding Cecil’s status as one of the Cities’ institutional Jewish delis, a place beloved for its hot pastrami-and-cream-cheese sandwiches; its matzo ball soup; its blintzes served with a dollop of jam.

Leventhal’s obituary and the Star Tribune story paint a picture of a man who was exceptionally kind and attentive — one who remembered his regulars’ orders, and asked after their families. Sheila told the Strib that Leventhal “lived” at Cecil’s, where he kept meticulous accounts of the restaurant’s sales and orders, baked challah, and mingled with customers. He was also a fifth-degree black belt in judo, and helped found Midway Judo on Robert Street, where he volunteered for more than 50 years.

Tributes from customers poured in via Facebook and the Star Tribune’s comment section, one calling Leventhal the “epitome of a mensch” and another crediting Cecil’s as “the only place I’ve ever cried tears of joy while eating.” In addition to Sheila, Leventhal is survived by his children Becca, Brad, Amy, and Aaron, and seven grandchildren.