Visu­al Arts

Katz’s: Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of a Delicatessen

Jake Dell; Bal­domero Fer­nan­dez, pho­tog­ra­ph­er; Adam Rich­man, fwd.
  • Review
By – May 13, 2014

Meet Katz’s, the old­est del­i­catessen in the U.S., cel­e­brat­ing its 125th birth­day with a book as thick and as juicy as a Katz’s pas­tra­mi sandwich.

Katz’s will tell you all you want to know about this New York land­mark, which has passed from fam­i­ly to fam­i­ly over the years, main­tain­ing its rep­u­ta­tion as one of the city’s pre­mier des­ti­na­tions for the fressers of the world. A brief affec­tion­ate his­to­ry by Jake Dell, one of the cur­rent own­ers, opens the book, and then Dell takes us inside the restau­rant, start­ing with the floor plan and clos­ing, an inch and a half of pho­tos lat­er, with pic­tures of every staff mem­ber from the co-own­ers to deliv­ery men, even the secu­ri­ty guards, who don’t work for the restau­rant but [are] still part of the family.”

This fat fam­i­ly pho­to album — in full col­or — cap­tures every oper­a­tion, every nook and cran­ny, every detail, of the restau­rant, and by the time you’ve leafed through its more 300 pages and 600+ pic­tures, you’ve seen it all — the stock­room, the kitchen, the direc­tions to the restrooms, the mak­ing of a sand­wich slice of pas­tra­mi by slice, the tables wait­ing to be cleared of left­over french fries — and you’re ready to eat.

If Katz’s is your deli, this is your book. It tells you every­thing you want to know, down to the dif­fer­ence between pas­tra­mi and corned beef and sour and half sour pick­les. Auto­bi­og­ra­phy and love story.

Relat­ed Content:

Recipe: How to Craft a Reuben with a Katz’s Twist

Step 1: Gath­er your supplies:

3/4 lb Katz’s Pas­tra­mi
2 Slices Tra­di­tion­al Rye Bread
A Hand­ful of Juicy Sauer­kraut
3 Slices of Swiss Cheese
Home­made Russ­ian Dressing

Step 2: Slap a hand­ful of sauer­kraut on a plate. Don’t be afraid to go all out — no one ever died from an excess of kraut.

Step 3: Lay the Swiss over the sauer­kraut and slow­ly melt it to a gooey glory.

Step 4: While the Swiss is melt­ing, hand carve some pieces of our juicy pas­tra­mi into thin slices. Inhale deeply. Try to stay con­scious despite the delight­ful wave of smoky aromas.

Step 5: Drape those slices over a fresh piece of rye bread — treat your­self to a lit­tle extra if you’re in a meaty mood.

Step 6: Pour the sauer­kraut and cheese over the fresh­ly cut pas­tra­mi slices. Resist the urge to con­sume immediately.

Step 7: Smear some Russ­ian dress­ing over that oth­er slice of rye. No skimping.

Step 8: Slap the dress­ing-coat­ed slice over the kraut and cheese, slice that pup­py in half, dish out the nap­kins. Take a moment to appre­ci­ate your hand-craft­ed cre­ation — but only one moment, who would have the self-con­trol to wait any longer to sink their teeth into this deli­cious work of art?

For best results, eat two. With a side of latkes.

Recipe pro­vid­ed by Jake Dell, author of Katz’s: Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of a Del­i­catessen (Bauer and Dean, 2013).

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

Discussion Questions