“We eat food to live, “We first taste food by seeing it” all true but food also feeds our soul and stimulates our memory through our taste buds and olfactory senses. Deli Man traces the roots of the Delicatessen. What it means to be a Deli Man, you can’t just follow a recipe or “chef” your way to becoming a deli man. It is taught from the knee to hand and eye by the family’s that migrated from Germany , Russia, Eastern European countries.
In the 1840’s-50’s the German Jews created the Delicatessen on New York’s lower east side. Craving a taste of “Wursts” homemade breads and a sense of security from the homeland in a strange new land, the Delicatessen was born. In the 1880’s-90’s persecuted Russian, Polish, Romanian and Hungarian Jews primarily arrived passing the Statue of Liberty and settling in the lower east side as their previous cultural ancestors did. This time the delicatessen was introduced to new cultural foods. Pastrami was from Romania, Kleplach, Blintzes was Polish. The menu grew away from the predominately German Bratwurst, Knockwurst and all the other Wursts. Now, there was chopped liver, stuffed cabbage, chicken soup and matzo balls and so many more dishes that became the “soul and Heart” Jerry Stiller said of the Deli.
Produced and Directed by Erik Greenberg Anjou this documentary film also was featured in the Jewish Festival, Winter’s fest.
Anjou, deftly weaves interviews and historic footage from some of the iconic delis. Katz’s deli on the lower east-side of Manhattan. The Deli where “When Harry met Sally” filmed the famed orgasmic scene and the classic line “I’ll have what she’s having”. The Katz’s that coined the slogan all through our wars “Send a Salami to your boy in the Army”. 2nd Ave. Deli in Greenwich Village NYC. has seen so many cultural generations through it’s door. Carnegie and Stage deli’s where the owners were as recognizable as the their star studded clientele. The walls lined with framed photos and sandwiches name in their honor were coveted amongst the stars. Seinfeld did an episode as a nod to having a sandwich named in his honor.
Ben’s Best in Queens, New York ,( I think was my first entry into a delicatessen ) . In 1945, Nate N Al’s deli opened up in a residential area called Beverly Hills. You can find Larry King as a regular along with all the other celebrities that are loyal to this institution.
David “Ziggy” Gruber is a third generation Deli Man. He started in his grandfather’s Rialto Delicatessen which was the first one on Broadway. His Grandfather strapped a white apron on him at age 8 and put him to work. He feels the most comfortable in the deli kitchen preparing the dishes he learned first hand from two generations before him . “Schmaltz” truly runs through his veins. His expertise can be found of all places in Houston, Texas. Who would have thought that the best deli would be in Texas, go figure?
Where is the food today that reminds us of our Great Grandmother? The taste of Tante’ (Aunt) Jeanette’s
chopped liver, Aunt Dorothy’s colorful T’zimmis, Mom’s stuffed cabbage, Dad’s sunday appetizing fish platter’s , Grandmother’s chicken soup and matzo balls. The real old country recipes! The one’s that brings us back to family holiday and sunday night dinner’s. The one’s that through food bring the dead back to life for an instance through remembrance of morsel’s of tasteful comfort .
We need to clone Ziggy, there was once a deli on every neighborhood restaurant block. Over 10,000 delis at one time now only 500 nationwide. But truly only a select few serve true traditional deli food. In this day and age of fusion, Deli light, assimilation, the true ethnic culinary art of carving, the proper smoking food process, produce selection , the pinch of this and that is a lost heritage art form. Done correctly, old school and I mean old, It is not as profitable as other restaurant cuisine . When you see this film you will understand more throughly.
This documentary is a must see! Caution: two things you must see it asap before it leaves the theatre. The more support the longer the film can stay. And do know you will be ravenous when you leave. Unfortunately, we only have a couple of delis and they are Deli lights. But they are here and not totally extinct. If you have been fortunate to have the real deal then you know the difference if you haven’t then you can except the Deli light version.
“Deli Man ” Opens at the San Francisco, Opera Plaza Theatres March 6. On the 6th and 7th evening performance will be introduced by Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman of Wise Sons Jewish Deli.
RATED: 4 Honey 🐝’s