Deli Man

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Food movies are fun – Chef and The 100-Foot Journey last year; Food documentaries…they’re a mixed bag. A few years ago, Jiro Dreams of Sushi was the overrated documentary on the best sushi place in the world. It was a tiny place located in a subway station, with a two month wait.

The best deli in the U.S. is in Texas, and run by David “Ziggy” Gruber. He might be in his 40s, but he talks like an 80-year-old Jew from New York. He’s the perfect subject for a documentary, but there’s just not enough here.

Things start with the quote “There are two types of people in this world. Those that love delis and those you shouldn’t associate with.”

We get to see people like Jerry Stiller, Larry King, Alan Dershowitz, and Fyvush Finkel talk about their favorite delis, sandwiches, and the history of delicatessens. It’s amazing to think that in 1931, there were thousands of Jewish deli’s in New York. Today, there are about 150 – in the entire U.S.!

Ziggy started working with his grandfather at 9-years-old. His best friends were old Jewish folks and at 15, he was devastated by the loss of his grandfather. At that time, he decided to start attending a prestigious culinary school. He was all set to become one of those chefs at a high end snooty place, until he came back to his first love – the delicatessen.

It can be interesting to hear about the rising costs to keep a deli running, or how to properly make a great sandwich. You could see the pain in Stiller’s eye as he talks about a deli making actor Zero Mostel a foot-long sandwich because he’s the star actor of a play…while he was given a sandwich with three small pieces of meat.

It was fun to hear some of the Yiddish and watching Ziggy kibitz with his customers, but again, there’s a limited audience for this film. Even though it sometimes felt like a family reunion for me, I felt a little like Jerry Stiller. It was a bit thin for my tastes.

There was one scene…watching a huge pastrami sandwich being prepared on Russian rye. I could imagine the sights and smells of being a child and going into Katella Deli with my grandmother. I smiled, wishing I was noshing on a corned beef and rye instead of stale Red Vines.

As entertainment, I can’t give this more than 2 ½ stars out of 5.

2 comments

  • L. Nevarez

    My husband and I have always enjoyed delicatessens but you are right, they are slowly disappearing. Our favorite was in West L.A…but no more. Since I am a foodie, I think I would enjoy Deli Man! Thanks Josh!

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