Saturday, March 14, 2015

Deli Man The Movie

I was intrigued about the documentary Deli Man as soon as I was aware of its existence.  I found out that it was playing at the Kew Gardens Cinema.  We generally go there a few times a year to see an independent film.  That is a movie theater the way it ought to be in a residential area away from shopping malls.

In February 2008 in this journal I wrote about the demise of kosher delis in Queens.  That theme is discussed on a national scale in this film  In 1931 there were thousands of delis in the USA with 1550 in NYC alone, but now perhaps only 150 still exist in North America.  There were interviews with restauranteurs of the well known delis that remain.  Much of the movie considered Kenny and Ziggy's in Houston.  David "Ziggy" Gruber appeared numerous times in the movie as he inherited the business from his parents and grandparents.  He was very attached to his family and the deli and figuratively was married to it.  At the end of the movie he went to Hungary the home of his grandparents and got married.

Jay Parker, the owner of Ben's Best Deli in Rego Park, was featured throughout the film.  While growing up in Rego Park I would go there and pick up food to bring home.  I remember that Ben who has since passed on had a big mouth and was very much a braggart. His food was excellent! Back in the 1960s I remember:
  • Julie's Deli on Queens Blvd. near the Rego Park Jewish Center
  • Dave-Ed's on 63rd Drive near P.S. 139
Ben's Best in Rego Park is not to be confused with the Ben's Deli with restaurants in Bayside, Manhattan, Long Island and Boca Raton.  The latter Ben's is the location of the famous Oldies Meets and Greets.  It's owner, Ronnie Dragoon, was interviewed briefly at the Boca Ration Location.  I can not understand why it is called Ben's when the owner's name is Ronnie.

Certainly not all the 150 delis remaining could be featured in the film, but I was disaapointed that Mendy's Glatt Kosher Deli did not appear.  I think that the director/producer Erik Greenberg Anjou could have explained what is meant by Glatt Kosher.  He did include translations of some Yiddish terms which are likely not familiar to Gentiles watching the film.

It was briefly noted that the demise of the Kosher Deli is likely caused by demographic changes.  I have certainly observed that in Queens.  I suggest that owners of these establishments try to market themselves to potential customers of different religions and national origins.

This is the best movie that I have seen in a very long time.

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