Kenny & Ziggy's isn't just about food. it's tradition.
My name is Ziggy Gruber, and I'm the owner and your host at Kenny & Ziggy’s. Being a deli man is probably something I was destined to be. In fact, I’m a deli man three times over. I’m the third generation in my family to own a deli. I’ve run three successful delis – one in New York, one in Los Angeles and now, one in Houston. And finally, Texas is the third U.S. coast where I’ve had the privilege of showing how life without a great deli is really no life at all.
where it all began
In the early 1900s, Max Gruber (Ziggy's grandfather) left Budapest, Hungary, on a bicycle. He pedaled his way across Europe to the Atlantic coast and eventually sailed for the United States, ending up in New York’s lower east side. Beginning at just 15, Max spent several years working in delis and learning the craft. Then, in 1927, he and his brothers-in-law Morris and Izzy Rappaport took the big gamble to open The Rialto Deli, the first Jewish Deli on New York’s Broadway. It was a gamble that paid off. Years later, at age 12, Max’s son, Gene, is behind the counter and a second generation took the stage.
IT WAS in THE '80s...
Ziggy had been learning the deli business with his Grandfather, Max, his Dad, Gene, and Uncle Sy at the Cresthill Kosher Deli, as well as with his Uncle Norman at the Woodrow Kosher Deli since he was 8. At age 15, Ziggy lost beloved grandfather, Max, and was ready to open his own deli, but his father and mother convinced him to go to culinary school in England. He left for London, graduated from Cordon Bleu and went to work at Le Gavroche a Michelin-three-star restaurant, London’s first. But the deli was in his blood, and after two years, he was back and taking over the family deli, now on the outskirts of New York City. Later, he opened his own delicatessen on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, Calif. called Ziggy G’s. The third generation was off and running the show.
houston, we have a deli
In 1999, Houston businessman Lenny Friedman sought out his New York friend Freddy Klein, former owner of the Carnegie Deli. The two of them met with Ziggy and convinced him the Bayou City needed an authentic Ziggy’s kind of deli of its own. While not at all sure how Texas would take to a New York Jewish deli, Ziggy agreed to partner with Lenny’s son, Kenny, and made the move. The rest is delicious history. Kenny & Ziggy’s is now not only the deli star of the Lone Star State but noted as one of the top delis in the nation. In a time when traditional Jewish delis are closing at an alarming rate, Ziggy is doing his part to continue the tradition. In fact, seventeen years after opening the first Kenny & Ziggy’s, he opened a second Houston location. And now, with Ziggy’s two daughters, Max and Izzy, the fourth generation of deli folk are in the wings.
You Oughta be in pictures
In 2015, Ziggy, this child of the Great White Way – and self-described movie buff – went Hollywood. That is when Deli Man, a New York-produced film documentary looking at the men behind the food and traditions of delicatessens in Jewish culture, made its debut. The film is an entertaining study on how delis were an integral part of every Jewish community in the first half of the 20th century and raises the alarm on how their numbers are diminishing. Recalling the roles delis played in their own lives are well known personalities like Larry King, Jerry Stiller and Alan Dershowitz. While it includes delis from all regions of the country, Ziggy is center stage at Kenny & Ziggy’s, a place the film’s producer calls “arguably the finest delicatessen restaurant in the U.S.” But don’t expect stardom to change things at home. Almost every day, seven days and nights a week, Ziggy, the Deli Man, is in place, in the deli and making people smile (either from his jokes, his food or both).