Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, May 5, 2018

MVNews this week:  Page A:8



Mountain Views-News Saturday, May 5, 2018 

TABLE FOR TWO by Peter Dills


When my friend and superstar Personal Trainer Darrian 
Dalangini challenged me to find the best Pastrami in the area, 
I thought “easy enough, I’ll check out a few places, post a few 
notes on my facebook site www.facebook/, and 
the answer will appear”. I found out quickly don’t argue sex, 
politics or who has the best pastrami sandwich in town. Before 
we start this argument, let’s take a look at the origins of pastrami.

Like corned beef, pastrami was originally created as a way to 
preserve meat before modern refrigeration. For pastrami, the 
raw meat is brined, partly dried, seasoned with various herbs 
and spices, then smoked and steamed. In the United States, 
although beef plates are the traditional cut of meat for making 
pastrami, it is now common to see pastrami made from beef 
brisket, beef round, and turkey. 

The Romanian specialty was introduced to the United States in 
a wave of Romanian Jewish immigration from Bessarabia and 
Romania in the second half of the 19th century, via the Yiddish. 
Early references in English used the spelling “pastrama”, closer 
to the Romanian original. The modified “pastrami” spelling 
likely was introduced to sound related to the Italian salami.

Although New York’s Sussman Volk is generally credited with 
producing the first pastrami sandwich in 1887, that claim is 
disputed by the founders of Katz’s Deli in New York, which was founded in 1888. Volk, a kosher butcher, 
claimed he got the recipe from a Romanian friend in exchange for storing the friend’s luggage while 
the friend returned to Romania. According to his descendant, Patricia Volk, Volk prepared pastrami 
according to the recipe and served it on sandwiches out of his butcher shop. The sandwich was so 
popular that Volk converted the butcher shop into a restaurant to sell pastrami sandwiches.

Romanian Jews immigrated to New York as early as 1872. Among Jewish Romanians, goose breasts were 
commonly made into pastrami because they were inexpensive. Beef navels were cheaper than goose 
meat in America, so the Romanian Jews in America adapted their recipe and began to make the cheaper 
beef pastrami.

Making foods to sell out of push carts in the Lower East Side of New York was one of the most popular 
occupations for immigrant Jews in the latter half of the 19th century. Because sandwiches were a hugely 
popular foodstuff in New York, it is possible Romanian Jewish immigrants were making and selling 
pastrami sandwiches from push carts on the streets of New York at least a decade before Sussman Volk 
converted his butcher shop into a restaurant.

With a little help from my friends, here are the top three choices for a pastrami sandwich in the Pasadena/
Los Angeles areas. In no particular order:

The Hat With a number of locations throughout the San Gabriel Valley, I visited the one on the corner of 
N. Lake and Villa in Pasadena. I ordered mine dry, and loaded up on the horseradish and spicy mustard

Johnnie Pastrami 4017 Sepulveda Blvd. Culver City. The names says it all. Although Johnnie recently 
passed on to the sandwich shop in the sky, visitors flock to this spot for pastrami on a buttery French 
roll, and ask for extra pickles.

Tied: Langers and Canters. These two veterans probably received the most passionate support with such 
postings as “no need to go anywhere else”.

Canter’s Deli 419 N/ Fairfax Los Angeles (323) 651-2030

Langers 704 S. Alvarado St. Los Angeles (213) 483-8050

Do you like your Pastrami thick or thin? I’ll have to chicken out on this one and say they were all good !!

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