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Deli Man: New Documentary Delves Into the Culture of Jewish Delis 

Wednesday, Feb 25 2015
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A new documentary called Deli Man opens in early March, and is an interesting look at the culture, food, and people of Jewish delis. Look for a serving of Bay Area love in the form of commentary and footage from Wise Sons proprietors Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman — shown transporting bakers' racks through the Mission and sharing that the high cost of meat makes it tough to run a business.

The film focuses on the youthful, third-generation deli man Ziggy Gruber, who is so obsessed with the food and culture of delis that he leaves behind a promising career as a white tablecloth chef in the U.K. His description of attending a meeting of the deli minds in New York and realizing no one appeared to be ready to continue the tradition of the older seniors is telling. Other delis get coverage, including Caplansky's, Ben's Best, Katz's, 2nd Avenue Deli, Nate 'n Al, Carnegie, and the Stage with enough pictures of good pickles, sandwiches, kugel, and matzo ball soup to get that tummy rumbling.

The people of delis are depicted as an important element to the Jewish delis experience; you want to return for your usual meal but also kvetch with the owner and staff. And, in a trait they share with other restaurant workers, the deli men presented here rightly point out how much dedication and labor and love is needed to want to stay in the business — yet they also point out as crazy as the business can be, they wouldn't want to hack it at, say, an office job.

Gruber remains a great example of how the love of food and culture can be a motivator and even reason for life's purpose. Let's hope the delis presented here remain a part of our society, since it is a different sort of gathering place worth preserving and supporting.

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Mary Ladd

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