When Louis and Lilly Zabar rented a counter in a dairy store on 80th Street and Broadway in 1934 to sell smoked fish, they could not have dreamed that their store would eventually occupy half a city block and grow into a beloved food mecca.
Lori Zabar—Louis’s and Lilly’s granddaughter—unpacks the story beginning with her grandparents’ escape from Ukraine in 1921 in a new book, Zabars: A Family Story, with Recipes. The premiere event launching the book will take place at the Center for Jewish History on May 4 at 7pm.
According to Lauren Gilbert, Senior Manager for Public Services at the Center for Jewish History, “Lori Zabar tells a quintessential New York story, spinning a delicious tale of her family and their iconic namesake store, now staffed by the fourth generation of Zabars after nearly 90 years in its original Upper West Side location.”
Lori describes Zabar’s gradual expansion and the passing of the torch to Louis’ children Saul and Stanley, and partner Murray Klein. It is the family’s passion for perfection, keen business sense, cutthroat competitive instincts, and devotion to customers and that has fueled the meteoric rise of this Upper West Side shrine known for its mouthwatering babka and Nova.
Lori paints a delectable portrait of Zabar’s as it is today—the intoxicating aromas, the crowds, the devoted staff—and shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes of the long-time employees, family members, eccentric customers, and celebrity fans who have created a uniquely American institution that honors its immigrant roots, revels in its New York history, and is relentless in its devotion to the art and science of selling gourmet food.
Sadly, Lori Zabar passed away in February, before the publication of the book. At this event, Lori’s father Stanley, brother David, nephew Willie, and children Marguerite and Henry will be in conversation with New York Times food reporter Julia Moskin.
This program is funded, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.