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Tommy Pastrami Comes from a New York State of Mind

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Monday, June 29, 2009, at 05:39AM
Now Serving Ed Fuentes

A pastrami sandwich at Tommy Pastrami on 6th street.

Tommy Pastrami: New York Delicatessen just opened next to New York Pizza, making that block of 6th Street a potential Little Manhattan. For now, you can call it The Pastrami Corridor.

From Hill to Flower, you will find Arda's Cafe, Sandwich Shop, ShowBiz Ribs, and Yorkshire Grill all serving their version of the city lunch staple, the pastrami sandwich. Now New York-born David Trachtman hopes to muscle into that mix with his Tommy Pastrami franchise.

Trachtman was introduced to Tommy Pastrami by his daughter, who called him after she found an Orange County deli serving the real thing. "I doubted it," says Trachtman, "until I had it it for myself." The chain, which was started by Brooklyn-born Tommy Cassella, first opened in Phoenix, AZ, and now operates in California and Las Vegas.

At the time, opening a deli was far from his mind, having just retired. But when his wife wanted to be part of Downtown's growth three years ago by buying a loft, he thought getting back into a business might be the way to join a community. "I thought how could we really make a difference," he recalls. "Sure, we could buy a place, but there was a real feeling here, almost like New York, and I thought people needed a place to go."

Trachtman went to Tommy Cassella and said L.A. was ready for the real thing, and secured Los Angeles County as his territory. Still, it wasn't quite New York enough and he wanted to add something he can't find in California: Nathan's Hot Dogs.

"I went back to New York and reunited with my school buddies, and said 'I'm doing this crazy thing, opening a deli, and even I want to serve Nathans,'" he laughed, then adding that one of his friends leaned into him to say his son was high up Nathan's corporate ladder.

Three years later, and two weeks ago, he opened his flagship Tommy Pastrami for the Los Angeles area, and Nathan's Hot Dogs joined the deli staples of New York hand-sliced Pastrami, corned beef, and slow roasted brisket served as a French Dip.

Already there are regulars, who enter the bold colored 3,000 square foot deli feeling free to move tables to find a spot near one of three TVs.

Downtowners might take a bit of umbrage when a manager says "Hey, you have to try the French Dip. It's better than Philippes or Cole's." But really, a little trash talk only seems to add another later of NY authenticity to 6th street.

Tommy Pastrami: New York Delicatessen/ 516 W. 6th / 213.362.DELI / Monday-Friday: 10am to 6pm

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