Katz’s: Autobiography of a Delicatessen

A new book celebrates 125 years of pastrami.

A new book celebrates 125 years of pastrami.

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In the age of Instagram, it’s likely several billion pictures of Katz’s Delicatessen now exist, be they snaps of sawdust floors and skilled corned beef slicers taken by Japanese tourists, or family keepsakes of Grandpa showing off the knoblewurst he loved in his Lower East Side youth.

Indeed, we’d wager the Jewish deli at the corner of Houston and Ludlow streets is, upon its 125th anniversary, such an internationally known culinary institution that most of you’d be able to recognize some of its smallest details: the pink-red neon of the “100% all-beef frankfurter” sign, the hanging poster pointing out where Harry met Sally, the wonderful peppered rind of the pastrami peeking out between soft sliced rye.

That’s why it’s all the more impressive that the photos you see here are so stunning. They come from the book Autobiography of a Delicatessen, published by Bauer and Dean, with photographs by Baldomero Fernandez and an introduction by Jake Dell, who now runs this landmark with his father, Alan.

Told mainly through Fernandez’s images, the book is a visual day in the life of one of the rare places that manages to be both delicious and a reminder of a Manhattan long past.

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Want to see the Katz pictures that didn’t print? Check out the slideshow

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.