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Zaftig's a question.

Will be attending my niece's graduation at the end of May. We will be having dinner here one night. On their menu they distinguish between pastrami and Roumanian pastrami. Can someone explain the difference? Growing up in NY, we only had one type and it was called pastrami.

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  1. Coming from New York as well I don't have an answer. I'd be just as confused as you are; all my life I've only seen "pastrami" on menus, in NY/NJ, and elsewhere.

    Of course, all pastrami came to us via Romanian Jews in the late 19th century; the word "pastrama", from which we get pastrami, refers more to a technique than to the meat itself. It started out as a method of preserving goose. So theoretically, all menus could say "Romanian Pastrami", yet they don't.

    As far as Zaftig's menu item, it may be a difference in preparation, maybe a difference in what type of meat or just a different cut, or it could be a difference in spices. There might be more garlic, or maybe a sweeter note; I'd definitely ask Zaftig's what they mean.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mcsheridan

      Called Zaftig's and found out that Romanian pastrami is their own creation. It is regular pastrami with a honey / mustard glaze. Does not sound like something a pastrami eating New Yorker would enjoy.

      1. re: rsanders99

        Eeeeeuuuuwwww. You are So Right!

        Gimme that old-time Pastrami, on Rye, with Mustard. I will accept No Substitutes.

        1. re: rsanders99

          They call it pastrami but, I'd pass. That's an item you can't mess with.

        2. re: mcsheridan

          The etymology and travel history of food is always fascinating. Pastrami probably morphed from turkish bastima or pastima which is air dried beef. After the ottomans conquered Romania the guess is the Romanians adapted it and the rumanian Jews brought their version here.

        3. I once lived near Coolidge Corner and recall seeing "Roumanian" pastrami in the neighborhood well before there ever was a Zaftig's (a place I don't think very highly of).

          For once, my memory didn't just make stuff up. According to this old blog post, Rubin's Kosher Deli (another place I don't think very highly of) has been doing it for a long time: http://noshstalgia.blogspot.com/2007/...

          It does not sound good. I wonder: is this an invention of Brookline delis, or does it exist elsewhere?


          5 Replies
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            possibly a question for the Manhattan board, but isn't there a restaurant on the lower east side that is called "roumanian"? I was there some 20 or 30 years ago, schmaltz was on the table in the pitchers that are used here for maple syrup, and vodka bottles were brought to the tables in blocks of ice. The pastrami was specified as "roumanian" and it was very good. As memory recalls, not drenched in mustard glaze at all. "Just" their house pastrami. I'd love to have it again.

            1. re: Madrid

              Oh Lord, you're talking about Sammy's Roumanian Restaurant. My father used to call it "heart attack heaven." The schmaltz, the gribenes, and, yes, the pastrami. NY certainly had Roumanian pastrami. The particular smoke, which was spicier and slightly peppery, was considered the "king" of the species. Sammy's brisket was equally famous. I can't believe we ever ate like that and lived to tell the tale! Thanks Madrid for making me laugh. I assure you, whatever Zaftig's call Roumanian pastrami, isn't.

              1. re: teezeetoo

                Wow. Thanks!! I went there many years ago with my parents and haven't been quite able to remember the name. I remember another table with the vodka ice block. I also remember pickles drenched in garlic, as well as a sausage that seemed like about 50% garlic inside.

                Great memory.

                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  I was called shiska throughout our meal at Sammy's and I guess I proved it because it was the first time I'd ever had chopped liver. I thought it tasted like peanut butter with a lot of garlic. I loved the Roumanian pastrami, whatever it was. It is in a basement and going in there really felt like going back in time and space to a much older world.

                  Nothing like Zaftigs, in other words!

                  1. re: Madrid

                    It's shiksa, and hilarious, cause it's just how my non jewish girlfriend used to pronounce it.

          2. Sam LaGrassa's, which might be the best sandwich place in town, refers to their pastrami as Rumanian. It is described as "Dry cured beef seasoned then gently smoked.", and it is awesome (there). I've never had it at Zaftig's, but generally their sandwiches are not on par with LaGrassa's.

            Nellio's in Lexington also calls their pastrami roumanian, but I've never tried it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: black_lab

              Neillio's pastrami does have a sweet glaze on it.

              1. re: black_lab

                Evans in Marblehead also refers to their pastrami as Romanian.

                1. re: phatchris

                  Just noticed that on the truck in Dewey Square.

              2. As someone who lived steps from the Coolidge Corner location and now lives a mile or so from the Natick location, I have been to Zaftigs (no apostrophe: Slim, I am disappointed in you LOL) way too many times. Their pastrami is not very good. A small notch above supermarket pastrami and countless notches below places like Moody's Delicatessen, Sam LaGrassa's and Michael's Deli (far and away my 3 favorite in the Boston area for pastrami).

                If I was forced to eat at Zaftigs, I would probably order their potato pancakes (they are of the thicker more toothsome variety) and a side of their grilled banana nut bread. My wife likes their chicken salad but I have not tried it.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Gordough

                  Now that I think about it, neither Zaftig's nor Zaftigs makes much sense as a restaurant name.

                  Moody's pastrami is my clear new favorite in the area.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Wow, lots of Zaftigs hate. Maybe it's just because I grew up eating there often but I'm never unhappy there. I stick to potato pancakes, blintzes, omelettes and salads.

                    It looks like Michael's Deli also called his pastrami Romanian, actually iRomanian - pastrami 2.0? He also offers a balsamic and fig glazed version: http://michaelsdelibrookline.com/menu...

                    1. re: Bugsey34

                      I would wager they don't even make the potato pancakes themselves.

                      1. re: Bugsey34

                        I have a soft spot for their LEO - lox, eggs, and onions, that's old school, although of course their lox only vaguely reminds you of what lox is SUPPOSED to taste like.

                  2. Neillio's in Lexington also has Romanian pastrami. I haven't tried it. It has a dark glaze/bark and is fairly thickly sliced.

                    1. As an NYC boy, don't bother with Zaftig there are 50 Boston places wheee I'd rather eat.

                      1. It was common in many deli cities for menus to refer to pastrami as "Roumanian". Used to see that in Detroit, for example. Meant pastrami.

                        My understanding has always been the reference is sort of historical, that pastrami was attributed to or at least more popular among Roumanian Jews.

                        12 Replies
                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            Yikes! You got me dancing in my office. Good way to start the day. Now all I need is a good pastrami sandwich for lunch. Not going to happen in Hingham.

                            1. re: CocoDan

                              Take the ferry downtown. Short walk to Sam LaG's.

                              1. re: Alcachofa

                                Good creative thinking..:)

                                btw, I'm a born NYer, long time Bostonian. Other than Sammy's Rumanian, I don't recall seeing Rumanian as a reference to my pastrami til moving to Boston.

                                SLG's Rumanian pastrami is my favorite local, Evans off the truck wasn't bad.

                                Have not been to Moody's in Waltham.

                                I don't go to Zaftig's.

                                1. re: 9lives

                                  gah, i have got to get to moody's.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    I count Moody's as some of the best pastrami I have ever eaten and that includes Katz's, and various Montreal Smoked meat purveyors. Katz's is different, and excellent, but the Moody's is really something special.

                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                      Agreed - I prefer it to anything I've ever had in that category. I bought a whole package (fatty of course), which was half a brisket, so I could immerse myself in it for a few days. Honestly, my favorite way to eat it was heated up in large strips, with no accompaniments of any kind. Damn, I have to get more...

                                  2. re: 9lives

                                    In New York they used to refer to a skirt steak as as Rumanian tenderloin. I guess they thought it sounded fancier.

                                2. re: CocoDan

                                  So in that most iconic of Klezmer tunes they sing about Pastramela (a little pastrami) and mamaliga (yiddish for Romanian/Jewish style polenta/grits).

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    oh, man. was just in waltham the other day.

                                    am not here often so need to make an actual note, cuz mental notes being effective are a thing of the past.


                                  2. re: CocoDan

                                    Your right, nothing even close in Hingham. The only even half way decent, last resort one is at On the Rye deli in Norwell. And even that is a stretch.

                              2. i grew up in brooklyn.

                                if you're coming from ny, do NOT try eating at zaftigs/zafitig's. er, i guess, even if you're not coming from ny. dunno how they remain open between the truly mediocre food and abysmal service.

                                1. Zaftigs makes more sense if you think of it less like a deli (which it really isn't) and more like a slightly ethnicized Applebee's.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                    That's about right, horrifying, but correct.

                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                      And honestly, if you think about it in those terms, it's fine for what it is. There are some things, especially on the breakfast menu, that I genuinely quite like. They do a perfectly fine salami and eggs, for example, although I realize that's a hard dish to screw up. Just don't think of it as a deli is all.

                                  2. Ken's NY deli in Bedford offers New York Black Pastrami, and Romanian Pastrami, for what it's worth.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: justbeingpolite

                                      as does Neillio's in Lexington-the pastrami that is. It's a Thursday special, I believe.


                                      Roast: Romanian Pastrami
                                      Entree: Hearty Beef Stew - Chicken Roulade with Roasted Peppers & Fresh Basil

                                    2. With a name like Zaftig's I was expecting a sort of Hooters for Yiddish speakers.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                        Gotta love their T-shirts: "Oy to the World"