There is nothing gluten-free about pastrami on rye. No kale is found inside a proper Reuben sandwich, nor does any quinoa float in the chicken soup favoured by Jews with familial roots in the shtetls of eastern Europe.
The high-calorie, high-cholesterol cuisine served for decades by the Carnegie Deli on Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue fell out of foodie fashion long ago. So it came as little surprise to native New Yorkers on Friday to hear that the world-renowned Big Apple eatery — which featured in Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose — would close this year.
“On the one hand, this is awful,” tweeted New York Post columnist John Podhoretz. “On the other, I just realised I haven’t gone there in 15 years because it’s gross.”
The Carnegie, known for sandwiches stuffed with enough meat to feed a family, opened in 1937 across the street from the eponymous concert hall. For most of its history, it functioned as half of a local delicatessen duopoly with the neighbouring Stage Deli, which shut down in 2012. The Carnegie enjoyed a period of pre-eminence after The New York Times declared its pastrami superior to that of the Stage in 1979.
The fall of the Carnegie can be traced back to the death on New Year’s Eve in 1987 of its co-owner Leo Steiner, a wisecracking New York character who celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1976 by fashioning a 60-pound Statue of Liberty out of chopped liver.
On the one hand, this is awful. On the other, I just realised I haven’t gone there in 15 years because it’s gross
Only 48 when he died, due to complications from a brain tumour, Steiner was eulogised by the comedian Henny Youngman as the “deli lama”. Without Steiner holding court, his restaurant began to lose its charm. “Since Leo died, I don’t feel right about going to the Carnegie,” his widow told the Times the following year.
The Carnegie suffered further setbacks in recent years under Marian Levine, daughter of Steiner’s partner Milton Parker. She divorced her husband Sandy, accusing him of having an affair with a Carnegie waitress and stealing the restaurant’s pastrami recipe so his paramour could use it for her own business (the Levines reached an undisclosed financial settlement last year).
New York City closed the Carnegie in April 2015, accusing it of using an illegal gas connection. It only reopened in February.