Every year, in the days leading up to Passover, Ziggy Gruber makes up to 1,500 pounds of charoset. For comparison, my mom will make no more than a pound of the chopped fruit and nut mix, and there will be some left over. But when has Gruber ever done anything on a small scale?
David, who goes by Ziggy, is a third-generation deli man. His grandfather, Max, arrived in New York via Budapest at the turn of the century. He found work in delis across the city until 1927 when he opened his own, the Rialto Deli, with his brothers-in-law. The Rialto, they claim, was the first deli to open its doors on Broadway, just two years before the start of the Great Depression. Amidst the anguish of the era, the Rialto thrived, serving the likes of Ethel Merman and the Marx brothers. All three of them. Decades later, Ziggy’s father opened his own deli, on Madison Avenue and called it Genard’s. Once Ziggy came around, the family had moved, shuttered its prospects in the city, and opened a deli in decidedly quieter Spring Valley, New York.