Hazel, we’re having Deli tonight. After seeing the documentary Deli Man I felt like I could run out and get one of the most sought after sandwiches in America, the Jewish Pastrami on rye with mustard. Umm why ‘sought after?’ Because where there were once thousands of delicatessens in New York City alone, we are down to only 150 left in the United States. And, there’s not one real New York style deli within 50 miles of where I live.
This is the story of the few deli’s that are left and the owners who keep it going. They are the generation chefs who pass down the recipes and meals of their fathers and father’s fathers to keep the business going. David “Ziggy” Gruber is one of them and has not changed his grandfather’s menu since it was started at the beginning of the 1900’s. Ziggy is still seasoning and cooking Corned Beef, Pastrami and Matzo Ball soup, but now in Texas. He’s a believer that the Jewish delicatessen must stay alive and does everything he can to fulfill that dream.
With the film comes a wealth of knowledge about the business, it’s history, how the food is prepared and comments from owners and patrons throughout America. Actor and comedian Jerry Stiller, iconic interviewer Larry King and lawyer Alan Dershowitz each give their views on the corner deli. Owners of Deli’s throughout America and cities in Canada tell their views of how they got involved in the business and what it has meant to them and their customers over the years.
My heritage is not Jewish, in fact I’m Italian and was raised on Italian food. I believe to this day that there’s very few people who can cook like my mother did. Like the Jews, the Italians are family people and tend to stay within our ethnic food circle. However, I always have a taste for a good pastrami sandwich and only a good New York Style deli can provide it.
When I was a teen and living in South Florida I would occasionally make a stop with friends at Wolfie’s Rascal House on Miami Beach and it was always packed. On the tables were bowls of garlic pickles and coleslaw with little plates to serve yourself. The waiters would bring you water immediately with the menu. You could smell the corned beef and pastrami from your table and the aroma of the matzo ball soup was in the air. Sadly, Wolfie’s delicatessen closed forever in 2008.
The film does show a rise in keeping the deli going, but I’m not happy since there isn’t one within 50 miles of where I live. Just seeing those sandwiches piled high with corned beef or pastrami at Kenny & Ziggy’s Delicatessen makes me jealous. It’s been some time since I took a trip to NY City, but when I do, I’m making a beeline for the best New York deli I can find.
Deli Man has been rated PG-13 for some language.
Additional Film Information:
Cast: David “Ziggy” Gruber, Jerry Stiller, Larry King and Alan Dershowitz, Deli Owners
Directed by: Erik Anju
Genre: Documentary, Food, Restaurant
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language
Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min
Release Date: February 27, 2015
Distributed by: Cohen Media