What to do about the Stage Deli.
Typically, when the Department of Health shuts down a classic New York restaurant these days—as the DOH did today with the Midtown matzo ball soup mecca—I suspect overzealous grandstanding. The City department has been trying to prove itself worthy ever since the Village KFC-rat debacle.
But this time I shake my head over the behavior of the deli's owners. The Stage was similarly shut down in March 2006, you remember, so they're repeat offenders. This time, the City appears to have bent over backwards to help the institution. It inspected the deli on March 12, found vermin and such, but gave the restaurant two days to clear up the problem. Returning on Friday, the problem was just as bad. So, El-Shuttero.
In my book, a living public landmark is a public trust. The Stage Deli doesn't just belong to its owners; it belongs to the city. And it's the owners responsibility to keep it in good working order, so that it may flourish and continue for many years to come. If the owners can't manage that, they should sell it to someone who can. It's not like New York has so many classic delis left that it can afford to have one be killed by ineptitude.