Letter to The New York Times
A Midtown Landmark Serves Its Last Pastrami on Rye
Published: December 3, 2012
To the Editor:
It seems so obvious to me, as someone who grew up in Brooklyn and ate in delicatessens since the late 1940s, why the Stage Deli in Midtown Manhattan has closed (“A Closing Ends an Era, and a Deli War,” news article, Dec. 1).
Delicatessens are meant to be inexpensive neighborhood restaurants with franks and knishes on the grill near the front window and dishes like stuffed derma, rolled beef and lungen stew, which are nourishing but certainly not healthy. The insides of the stuffed peppers should always be a mystery, and the mustard must be brown and spicy. And there must be warm sauerkraut for the franks.
When restaurants serve grossly overstuffed sandwiches named after celebrities to tourists at high prices, they stop being delis and end up like the Stage — once a place where less than famous Broadway actors could get something simple but filling to eat.
We can’t preserve the prices of the delis, but their very survival depends on preserving their ambience and their menus. Neighborhood delis are national treasures and should protected by historical commissions. If the delis go, next will be pastrami and pickles and crusty rye bread, and then where will our civilization be?
Worcester, Mass., Dec. 2, 2012