We were sharing a pastrami sandwich and pickles at a Los Angeles landmark: Canter’s Deli on Fairfax. I was 24; she was nearly 50 years older, with a piercing voice as loud as her flaming red wig.
Chef Louisa Shafia has been crossing culinary borders and bridging gastronomic gaps all her life. Shafia’s father, a Muslim from Iran, and her mother, an Askenazi Jew, raised a family around a very full dinner table laden with traditional Persian dishes right alongside the Jewish ones.
At 9:45 on a recent Sunday morning, Gil Garcetti stepped into an alcove in the secondary dining room at Canter’s Deli.
When Canter’s Deli first opened in Los Angeles, it was not at its now-famous location on Fairfax Avenue, but in Boyle Heights. And though Canter’s and most of the neighborhood’s Jews have long since deserted Boyle Heights, it was forever touched by the culture of the Jewish community that once called it home. Later waves of immigration brought Japanese, Latino and Russian immigrants to the area, giving Boyle Heights a unique and vibrant ethnic vibe.