The line stretched down the block on 7th Avenue today, further clogging up an already congested section of Midtown. The queue's destination? Carnegie Deli, the overstuffed sandwich haunt that'll close the book on nearly eight decades this Saturday. Around 11 a.m., the quoted wait time for a seat was around two hours.
"I was devastated," Marti Purifico—who traveled from Philadelphia with her husband Joe specifically to eat at Carnegie today—told us how she felt this afternoon after hearing the closure news. "I love sitting here, you meet all kinds of people. It's good. We've only been here, we've never gone to any other delis. This is all we know."
Carnegie Deli, so named for its proximity to the famed concert hall, opened in 1937, eventually becoming famous for its featured role in Woody Allen's 1984 film Broadway Danny Rose and a Times review that put its pastrami on the map. While the restaurant serves a bevy of Jewish staples—from latkes to smoked fish to chopped liver—the deli meats and sandwiches are the main draw, particularly the pastrami, which was part of theft accusations leveled at Sandy Levine by his ex-wife Marian Harper, who inherited the restaurant from her father.
Upon hearing that Carnegie would close, Vincent Marciante took off work and traveled from Long Island specifically to pay his respects. "I really like the whole New York, Woody Allen-esque deal. The old time people. No bullshit," he explained. "It's a really good sandwich that costs more money than you'd usually pay, but there's nothing not good about it."
Jake Dell, proprietor of "rival" Katz's Delicatessen downtown, agrees, telling the Times he's "deeply saddened to witness the disappearance of a fellow culinary landmark."
Now more than ever, we recognize how important it is for us to maintain our culture's time-honored food traditions. For generations, Carnegie and Katz's have been a united front. We have cured, smoked and steamed meats, fried up latkes, boiled matzo balls and whipped up frothy chocolate egg creams just as our grandmothers did. Most important, we've served it all up with just the right amount of guff to our loyal customers.
Other natives made the pilgrimage for one last fat stack of meat. Angela Murray, who grew up in the Bronx, shared fond memories of Carnegie. "It just makes me feel bad. All these great institutions are going away," she said. "I used to come here with my mother when I was 8, 9 years old."
"In the Bronx, there used to be all these great delis, and they're gone now. Things are changing, it's the same way with great Italian food, the old pizzerias here. It's just a change, and change is hard," she continued. "This is something you really miss."
Though its recent rockiness has been well-documented, Harper insists the shutter has nothing to do with finances. "I'm at that certain age where I want to enjoy my life, and I want to do certain things," she told NPR. "And all good things must come to an end."
Additional reporting by Scott Heins