For some, this word is a foreign concept, but for many in the Jewish community, the delicatessen is a sacred safe haven. How sacred, you ask? The answer can be found in Erik Greenberg Anjou‘s Deli Man — a documentary chronicling more than 160 years of tradition served up by Jewish deli owners. The third film in Anjou’s trilogy about Jewish culture, Deli Man follows Houston’s own Ziggy Gruber, a third-generation delicatessen man and owner of one of the top delis in the country, Kenny & Ziggy’s. A graduate of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in London, Ziggy decided to forgo the life of an acclaimed chef to follow his true passion: the delicatessen.
Gruber serves as the film’s effervescent tour guide, sharing stories about the rich history of delicatessens while also divulging his personal experience of growing up working in his grandfather and father’s Jewish deli. However, Gruber doesn’t tell this story alone. The film includes interviews with historical deli connoisseurs such as Jerry Stiller, Freddy Klein, Alan Dershowitz, Dennis Howard, Jay Parker (Ben’s Best), Fyvush Finkel and Larry King and features visits to deli meccas Katz’s, 2nd Avenue Deli, Nate ‘n Al and Canters. The film, however, is about more than just the history of the Jewish deli. It’s a heartfelt documentary about preserving culture, finding eternal love and happiness (whether with food or another person) and ultimately the fulfillment of the American dream. Deli Man will open at River Oaks Theater on Friday, February 27, at 7:30 pm. There will also be a special Q&A segment with the star of the film, Ziggy Gruber himself.