“The veal Parmesan hero from Rocco’s Pizzeria up the block from my parents’ house. My parents live five minutes from LaGuardia, and when I get picked up from the airport, there’s always one sitting on my mom’s stove. If it’s not there, my lazy ass has to walk up the block to get one.”
What happens when a whole bunch of people who worked at Publican Quality Meats, and also Zingerman’s, the famed Ann Arbor deli, open their own concern? They create something that is somehow twice is as good as PQM.
Deli food, like sex and barbecue, is very personal. Within minutes of posting a picture of the Uncle Rube Reuben ($13 or $22 “overstuffed”) from Steingold’s, a new deli and cafe in North Center, on Twitter, people harrumphed, “Where’s the beef?”
You don’t know lox. What you might know of cured salmon, if anything at all, is that sad vacuum-packed orange mush tucked away in the refrigerated section of your neighborhood grocery store. Jennifer Kim (Blackbird, Nico Osteria) and Bill Montagne (C Chicago), owners and partners at Snaggletooth, a tiny new restaurant in Lakeview, don’t sell mush. They purvey the real deal: delicately spiced, heavenly thin, sustainably fished, super-fresh cured fish. It’s a rare and addictive addition to Chicago’s deli scene.
Manny’s corned beef is just not that good. And listen, I love Manny’s Deli. I appreciate that the Raskin family has kept the venerable joint going, that’s they’ve provided a feeding/meeting trough for presidents and aldermen. Knife- and plate-flipping counterman Gino Gambarota is one of greatest restaurant personalities we have, the short ribs are heaven and they stock Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda. But their legendary machine-sliced corned beef is often dry. What I really go to Manny’s for is the pastrami and the nostalgia.