What is the true mark of fame? Having your name up in lights? Seeing it on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Nope! It’s finding it on the menu.
Take a New York staple, corned beef and pastrami. Known to diners at the Carnegie Deli as The Woody Allen, it appeared on the menu at the iconic deli after the equally iconic writer-director shot the movie Broadway Danny Rose on its premises. The sandwich itself is such a towering creation that it’s hard to imagine the diminutive (5’ 5”) Allen managing to eat one himself, but its ambitious size matches his achievements — at 17, he was already earning more than both of his parents combined.
A culinary world apart is the Lady Gaga sushi roll. These have sprung up in various restaurants across the country, all in different incarnations, a perfect match for a performer who goes through 14 costume changes during a single live performance. Born Stefanie Joanne Angelina Germanotta, her influences range from Stevie Wonder to Britney Spears to Deepak Chopra, so it’s no wonder there’s such diversity in her sushi rolls. The word “spicy”, appropriately, is a must, and tuna is the one ingredient included by all; the rest range from the humble (but jaunty) jalapeño to the lofty lobster.
The menu at Brooklyn’s Lioni Italian Heroes is stuffed with celebrity sandwiches, all of which have one thing in common: they’re Italian. One of the delicious surprises is the Alan Alda, wedged between the Lou Costello and the Al Pacino. Born Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo, Italian on his father's side, and now known as an award-winning, politically-savvy, actor-writer-director, Alda got his humble start in burlesque, performing with his parents. At two, he was photographed smoking a pipe by a reporter, and his spotlight-loving parents seized the PR moment, pretending it was a real habit instead of a stunt to catch the photographer’s attention. Alda went from being a “pipe smoking” child actor to having a successful Broadway career in the 1960s and then landed his most famous role playing Hawkeye Pierce on the 1970s TV series M*A*S*H. The multitalented star is well served in a sandwich that begins with the timeless deli staple roast beef topped with soppressata and finished off with a combo of Lioni’s homemade mozzarella and Munchee, a processed cheese, that’ll put a smile on your face just like Alda himself.
Some creations are more deliberate. On the exact day that Carmelo Anthony arrived in Manhattan to join the New York Knicks, the Carnegie Deli launched a preposterously tall sandwich named for the 6’ 8” star athlete, with all of its ingredients inspired by the hope that New York had a chance of becoming a championship team again. The Melo included bacon because Anthony was there to “bring it home,” and a spicy salami to add a little flavor to the team, the city, and the fans. The Russian dressing was a jab at the Russian New Jersey Nets owner who tried and failed to nab the basketball star for himself. Anthony lived up to the hype; the Knicks won their first division title in 19 years during the 2012-2013 season.
Thirsty? Go get yourself an Eliot Spritzer, named for the disgraced former Governor of New York who resigned on March 12, 2008 in the wake of a prostitution scandal. (Pinot Grigio, Chambord, a Serrano pepper, soda water, and a twist of lime is what makes up the scandalous concoction, according to The Museum of the American Cocktail™.) Other cocktails have been inspired by David Bowie, Dita Von Teese, Arthur Rimbaud, and Joan Collins, not to be confused with a Tom Collins, which dates back to 1874. (Joan’s drink has vodka instead of gin and grapefruit juice in place of lemon.) Stop in at Caroline’s Comedy Club for more, where you can sip on the Chris Rock, the Sarah Silverman, or the Denis Leary (“it may not be a cure for cancer, but it’ll take the pain away.”)
Whip, a breakfast and lunch grill in Stamford, CT, offers up 13 different wraps named after rappers. While the owner admits that she just liked the play on words, she may have hit on something with the Wu-Tang, a wrap that combines all-star flavors – pastrami, Russian dressing, cole slaw, and Swiss cheese.
Still hungry? There’s lots more dish, from scandal-ridden politicians (the Rob Ford Meltdown Sandwich at Pastissima in Toronto) to celebrities old (The Groucho at Geoff’s in Providence, Rhode Island) and celebrities new (the Neil Patrick Harris at Papa Charlie’s Deli in Williamstown, MA). Avril Lavigne has a pizza named after her, Sarah Michelle Gellar joins Lady Gaga and Robert Pattinson on the sushi roll plate, and Pink’s Hot Dog Stand in Los Angeles offers dogs named after Martha Stewart and Ozzy Osbourne. Two Beards Deli in Grand Rapids, Michigan, runs the gamut, with vegetarian offerings named after Freddie Mercury, Salvador Dali, Allen Ginsberg, Shel Silverstein and Mr. T.
The list keeps going and so does the parade of deliciousness named for those in the limelight, inspiring the wannabes of the world to aim for the plate as well as the stars.