Non­fic­tion

Zabar’s: A Fam­i­ly Sto­ry, with Recipes

  • From the Publisher
March 30, 2021

The fas­ci­nat­ing, mouth­wa­ter­ing sto­ry (with recipes!) of the immi­grant fam­i­ly that cre­at­ed a New York gas­tro­nom­ic leg­end: The most ram­bunc­tious and chaot­ic of all del­i­catessens, with one foot in the Old World and the oth­er inthe van­guard of every fast-break­ing food move in the city” (Nora Ephron, best-sell­ing author and award­win­ning screenwriter).

When Louis and Lil­ly Zabar rent­ed a counter in a dairy store on 80th Street and Broad­way in 1934 to sell smoked fish, they could not have imag­ined that their store would even­tu­al­ly occu­py half a city block and become a beloved mec­ca for qual­i­ty food of all kinds. A pas­sion for per­fec­tion, a keen busi­ness sense, cut­throat com­pet­i­tive instincts, and devo­tion to their cus­tomers led four gen­er­a­tions of Zabars to cre­ate the Upper West Side shrine to the cheese,fish, meat, pro­duce, baked goods, and pre­pared prod­ucts that her­ald­ed the twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry rev­o­lu­tion in food pro­duc­tion and consumption.
 
Lori Zabar — Louis’s grand­daugh­ter — begins with her grandfather’s escape from Ukraine in 1921, fol­low­ing a pogrom in which sev­er­al fam­i­ly mem­bers were killed. She describes Zabar’s grad­ual expan­sion, Louis’s untime­ly death in 1950, and the pass­ing of the torch to Saul, Stan­ley, and part­ner Mur­ray Klein, who raised com­pet­i­tive pric­ing to an art form and added top-tier house­ware and appli­ances. She paints a delec­table por­trait of Zabar’s as it is today — the intox­i­cat­ing aro­mas, the crowds, the devot­ed staff — and shares behind-the-scenes anec­dotes of the long-time employ­ees, fam­i­ly mem­bers, eccen­tric cus­tomers, and celebri­ty fans who have cre­at­ed a unique­ly Amer­i­can insti­tu­tion that hon­ors its immi­grant roots, rev­els in its New York his­to­ry, and is relent­less in its devo­tion to the art and sci­ence of sell­ing gourmet food.

Discussion Questions