Lori Zabar--granddaughter of Louis and Lilly Zabar, the founders of iconic New York City food store Zabar's--died in February 2022. The posthumous publication of her Zabar's: A Family Story, with Recipes makes for a touching and well-researched paean to the Zabar family. This is a love letter to a family and the business empire they created; it encompasses a history of Ukrainian pogroms in the early 20th century, an exploration of the New York City grocery industry in the 1940s, a discussion of the exploding gastronomic scene in the 1970s, with family stories and photographs deftly woven throughout.
When Louis and Lilly separately fled their hometown of Ostropolia, Ukraine, after a wave of brutal violence against Jews after World War I, they never imagined they were taking the first steps toward a legendary dynasty. They reconnected in New York City, and--thanks to Louis's acumen--their business progressed, by the 1940s, from vegetable stand to fish counter to appetizing store.
To this day, the counters of Zabar's are staffed by third- and fourth-generation Zabars, who love the vitality of the family business. Deliberately chaotic and busy, Zabar's has always been on the cutting edge of food trends and helped lead a gastronomic revolution in New York City in the 1970s. Often lauded in film and books, Zabar's legacy extends far beyond the confines of NYC. With wonderful photos of relatives over the years and many of Lilly's recipes included, Zabar's: A Family Story, with Recipes is a beguiling stroll through New York history--and a fascinating glimpse into an ambitious family. --Jessica Howard, freelance book reviewer