A visit to the “new” 2nd Ave.

2nd Avenue Deli
162 E 33rd St
(btwn 3rd and Lex)
New York, NY 10016
(212) 689-9000

The bottom line: the “new” 2nd Avenue Deli (on 33rd st) is nearly identical to the original (it’s just not on 2nd Avenue anymore). If you liked it then, you’ll like it now. It’s the same schmaltzy trip down memory lane (photo by Winnie; check out her awesome photos here).

Some years ago, I included the 2nd Avenue Deli in a piece I wrote about culinary anamorphism for Gastronomica (as I defined it, culinary anamorphism is a refashioning of food to make it resemble something else; in this case, towers — in pre-9/11 New York and fifteenth-century Cremona). Here’s the relevant passage (for the full text, click here):

    One of the most unforgettable instances of culinary anamorphism in recent memory must be attributed to restaurateur Abe Lebewohl, the late owner of the celebrated Second Avenue Deli in Manhattan, who was famous for his chop liver sculptures (he was also known for his Mock Chop Liver, a faux version of the old-world classic that wasn’t even vegetarian because it included schmaltz, i.e., chicken fat; it was just faux for the sake of being so). According to the deli’s eponymous cook book:

    “In 1976, Abe donated 350 pounds of chopped liver—not for the bar mitzvah of an indigent thirteen-year-old, but to New York magazine designer Milton Glaser’s graphic-design studio, Pushpin. Working feverishly in their highly perishable medium (by its second day, the exhibit was deemed ‘ripe’ for destruction), nineteen of the studio’s artists put together a show at Manhattan’s Greengrass Media Art Gallery called ‘Man and Liver’… The winning entry was James Grashow’s monumental six-and-a-half-foot-high rendering of King Kong straddling the World Trade Center’s twin towers.” (p. 4)

    Food in the form of buildings has been popular since the Renaissance. One of the most noted examples in the Italian Renaissance involved Torrone, the famous nougat of Cremona. On the occasion of the wedding of Bianca Maria Visconti to Francesco Sforza, October 25, 1441, the bride and groom were presented with a nougat replica of the city’s church bell tower, the so-called Torrione (today known as the Torrazzo) from which the sweet derived its name. Towers were a sign of power and wealth in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and it was not uncommon for gastronomic effigies to be erected in their likeness. The towers depicted by James Grashow were also a symbol of power, and like the tower of Cremona, they were a synecdoche for the city of New York. That the artist and restaurateur undertook such a labor-intensive rendering of the famous site from the New York skyline was testimony to the irresistible allure of culinary anamorphism.

I had fun the other night at the “new” 2nd Avenue Deli…

Ptcha is jellied calves’ feet. It was good with a little horse radish on rye. Mario Batali, eat your heart out.

Some prefer the matzoh ball fluffy and light, others firmer and denser. This one tended toward light, just like the old days when the 2nd Ave. Deli was on 2nd Ave.

One of my earliest memories is wondering why people in gray suits ate tongue at funerals. Tip or center? We had center.

The pastrami was well sliced but a little dry. Once I asked a Hungarian woman, a family friend and a wonderful lady, what she ate when her family landed on the Lower East Side in the early twentieth century. “Meat,” she said. “We ate meat.” She’s in her 90s and doing great.

2 thoughts on “A visit to the “new” 2nd Ave.

  1. OK, you just lost me. I shudder at the thought of eating any of that stuff. Especially jellied anything.

    Question: How do you stay so thin? Maybe you should settle down in Borough Park…

  2. Funny, from the photo i though the jellied calves feet was a cut of sauerkraut as part of what looks to be a pickle plate. adventurous order, considering you didn’t (as far as I know) grow up as the son of a jewish cattle trader. was is good? i have to try the new 2nd ave deli. but it is your manducatis post that got my mouht watering. nice pix too.

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