The history of the deli (short for “delicatessen”) can be traced back to Europe, particularly in Germany and the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Delis originated as small shops that primarily sold specialty foods such as cured meats, cheeses, pickles, and prepared dishes. These establishments often catered to immigrants seeking a taste of their homeland and comfort foods from their cultural backgrounds.

The deli concept spread to the United States with the wave of Jewish immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. New York City, in particular, played a significant role in the popularization of the deli culture. Jewish immigrants brought with them the tradition of creating and selling foods reminiscent of their homelands. Over time, these delis evolved to become not only purveyors of traditional Jewish foods but also of various international cuisines.

In the mid-20th century, delis gained popularity among a broader American audience. They became known for their hearty sandwiches piled high with meats and toppings, as well as for their welcoming and communal atmospheres. Delis were often places where people gathered, shared stories, and enjoyed good food.

While traditional delis continue to exist and thrive, the concept has also evolved to include a wide variety of culinary influences and offerings. Modern delis may incorporate a fusion of different cuisines, offer gourmet ingredients, and provide an array of ready-to-eat dishes and specialty products.

In recent years, the deli concept has also embraced online ordering and delivery services, making it more convenient for customers to enjoy deli-inspired foods from the comfort of their homes.

Overall, the history of the deli is a tale of cultural exchange, adaptation, and the enduring appeal of flavorful and comforting foods that bring people together.

Several delis around the world have achieved fame for their unique offerings, history, and cultural significance. Some of the most famous delis include:

  1. Katz’s Delicatessen (New York City, USA): One of the most iconic delis, Katz’s has been serving its legendary pastrami sandwiches and other deli classics since 1888. It’s known for its bustling atmosphere and the famous line from the movie “When Harry Met Sally.”
  2. Carnegie Deli (New York City, USA): While it closed its doors in 2016, Carnegie Deli was renowned for its massive sandwiches piled high with meats, especially their pastrami and corned beef.
  3. Schwartz’s Deli (Montreal, Canada): Established in 1928, Schwartz’s is famous for its smoked meat sandwiches, a beloved Montreal specialty. Its classic ambiance and mouthwatering offerings have made it an institution.
  4. Langer’s Delicatessen (Los Angeles, USA): A West Coast favorite, Langer’s is celebrated for its pastrami sandwiches and has been operating since 1947.
  5. Canter’s Deli (Los Angeles, USA): Opened in 1931, Canter’s is known for its 24/7 operation, friendly atmosphere, and classic Jewish deli fare.
  6. Mile End Delicatessen (New York City and Montreal): With locations in both cities, Mile End offers a modern take on Jewish deli cuisine, featuring innovative creations alongside traditional favorites.
  7. Reuben’s Restaurant and Delicatessen (London, UK): Established in 1908, Reuben’s is a renowned kosher deli in London, serving Jewish-style dishes and traditional deli fare.
  8. Mogg & Melzer (Berlin, Germany): A modern interpretation of the deli concept, Mogg & Melzer in Berlin offers a mix of classic deli items and contemporary culinary twists.
  9. Russ & Daughters (New York City, USA): Operating since 1914, Russ & Daughters is famed for its exceptional assortment of smoked fish, bagels, and other Jewish delicacies.
  10. Daquise (London, UK): Founded in 1947, Daquise is a Polish deli and restaurant in London, known for its authentic Eastern European cuisine.

These delis have made a lasting impact on their communities and have become destinations for locals and tourists alike, showcasing the enduring popularity of deli-style cuisine across the world.

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