HISTORY OF THE ROMANIAN PASTRAMI
Americans call it for a century “Romanian pastrami” or “Jewish-Romanian pastrami”; Canadians: “Smoked meat in Romanian style”. Europeans call it “New York style Pastrami”. The Romanians had lost this recipe.
Most of the serious sources in the Anglo-Saxon basin identify the origin of the recipe in Moldavia and Bessarabia. According to the Romanian dictionaries, the etymology of the pastrami descends from the Turkish pastârma. What makes the difference then? Pastrami is juicy, soft, as they say: “to eat with the spoon”, the Byzantine pastrami is dry, much saltier and harder. Differences occur when maturing. Pastrami is a pressed meat and, like the Greek παστραμάς or the Armenian basturma, the meat is dehydrated by salting, possibly pressed and died in the wind. The climate did not allow anything else to conserve. Some sources speak of “Romanian butchers” who, on the contrary, kept the meat moist for the entire duration of maturation, probably, initially, for economic reasons. Although the climate is friendlier to conservation, the additional protection measure was smoking.
The recipe was taken to New York by the first wave of migration of the Romanian Jews, started in 1872. As goose breast or the sheep pulp were hard to find, people turned to beef, much more abundant on the market, and at lower prices.
The first sandwich with pastrami was offered to Americans by Sussman Volk' kosher butcher shop, a Jew from Lithuania who claimed that he had got the Romanian recipe from a Romanian friend in exchange for his luggage being deposited. The success of his sandwich caused him to convert his butcher shop into a restaurant.
The second restaurant opened in Manhattan in 1888, based on pastrami, is Katz's Delicatessen, today an iconic brand of New York. Cinematographic productions where indoor scenes appear have made it famous all over the world. It sells 6.8 Tons of pastrami per week! A must for any visitor to the metropolis!
In 1927, a Jewish emigrant from Romania opened a restaurant in Montreal and, to differentiate himself from Americans, he said that he served “smoked meat in Romanian style”. Essentially, the same product. Becoming today a pilgrimage place for tourists, ministers and heads of state, Schwartz's Deli is presented as an emblem for Canadian gastronomy.
The fourth historical figure is Al Langer, who opens his restaurant in Los Angeles in 1947. For his pastrami sandwich, even the Hollywood stars have waited a few days for a reserved meal.
In the last decades, hundreds of restaurants have appeared, “Romanian pastrami” or “smoked meat in Romanian style” starring in their menus, with the first restaurant chains crystallizing. Fashion has already crossed the Ocean in reverse, so in Paris, besides Scwartz's and Katz (where the sandwiches with pastrami can be sold by as much as 49 Euro), we find the Merquez & Pastrami restaurant and a few more in affirmation. The phenomenon does not bypass London, where Zobler's is the most notorious.
In 2017, after long documentation and experiments, Atelier LKS s.r.l. recovers perhaps the most valuable piece of the Romanian gastronomic treasure and gives it back to the public through several restaurants and shops.