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Arts and Entertainment Sunday, Mar. 8, 2015 5 years ago

Film Review: 'Deli Man'

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Who would have thought that watching a film about the history of delicatessens for nearly 90 minutes could be delightfully exhilarating?

Who would have thought that watching a film about the history of delicatessens for nearly 90 minutes could be delightfully exhilarating? Obviously, Erik Greenberg Anjou did when he decided to direct the tantalizing new documentary, "Deli Man."

Charismatic chef-owner Ziggy Gruber, proprietor of Kenny and Ziggy's delicatessen, guides us through the history of an ethnic tradition. He, along with deli owners from across the country, provide insight into deli dining, deli lingo and deli declination. In 1931, New York City had over 1,550 Kosher delis. Now there are less than 150 nationwide. It's not cheap serving up quality food. And therein lies getting to the meat of the matter...uncompromising cuisine.

But rather bemoan the decline, "Deli Man" celebrates the tradition of and passion for Jewish food. Cameos by deli aficionados the likes of Jerry Stiller, Larry King and 92-year-old Fyvush Finkel provide some deliciously wicked humor. Comedian Henny Youngman, who was a regular at New York's Carnegie Deli always insisted, "I want a table near a waiter."

And speaking of waiters, delicatessens are famous for their out-spoken, rudely familiar and lovable servers. Interviews with them and other staff members exemplify the dedication and teamwork that goes into creating an atmosphere of belonging when you dine in a deli. You're family.

"Deli Man" is a sumptuous showcase for watching amazing food being prepared. One scene in particular demonstrates the precision that goes into braiding a Challah. It's akin to watching an artist creating a masterpiece. Anjou also dwells on the fierce devotion and love that deli owners posses. It's a prerequisite. Okay, perhaps it's an obsession but it's a righteous one on many levels.

Preserving the the history of Jewish food and handing it down through generations is of utmost importance. Eastern European Jews have no homeland to which they can return and collect culinary advice. "Deli Man" honors those whose passion is innate and commendable. It's also a really fun movie to watch as your stomach grumbles and your mouth waters. 

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