If you are Jewish, you want your son to be a doctor. But think again. Ziggy Gruber, the "deli man" among several featured in Erik Greenberg Anjou's new documentary, Deli Man, will do just fine. Trained for cordon bleu at the Culinary Institute, the young Ziggy was so attached to his grandparents that he went into the family business, and now, successfully situated in Houston as the deli restaurateur of his dreams and married to his masseuse, he is worth way more than his weight in chopped liver. Dimple-cheeked, Ziggy is a Jewish boy in the great Jewish tradition: He honors his ancestors and the crude and heimish cuisine of his people.
Deli Man, the movie, is a crowd pleaser, providing a history of Jewish delicatessens, New York's Lower East Side, and the deli's place in the community. A story about immigration and the American dream, the movie features more shtick than a night at a comedy club. Full of laughs and kitchen kitsch, the film had a screening last week at -- where else? -- the Friar's Club. Fyvush Finkel, star of Yiddish theater, cracked a few jokes. I'd like to tell you that I enjoyed a Second Avenue Deli knish or some of Carnegie's chicken matzo ball soup, but the Friar's strict rules do not allow outside food. Nevertheless, like a sky-high pastrami-and-corned-beef sandwich, Deli Man wraps itself around your heart and holds tight.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.