Art Ginsburg, founder of Art’s Deli, dies at 78

At Art’s Deli in Studio City, which consistently ranked among Los Angeles’ best delicatessens, there’s an old saying: “Every sandwich is a work of Art.”

Art Ginsburg, the restaurant’s founder, died on July 24 at 78 following a long battle with cancer.

Born on Feb. 19, 1935, Ginsburg grew up in Staten Island, New York. But it was in the San Fernando Valley — Valley Village, specifically — that he met his wife, Sandy.

“My mother fixed me up with him,” recalled Sandy Ginsburg, who added that Art kept throwing away her number until finally agreeing to meet her to “get this woman out of his hair.” When he first laid eyes on Sandy, “That was it; we knew,” she said.

Opened in 1957 on Ventura Boulevard, Art’s Deli soon became a gold standard.

By October 2010, as Art experienced health problems, the restaurant changed hands to son Harold and daughter Roberta.

Art Ginsburg remained active in the neighborhood surrounding his restaurant through the Studio City Improvement Association.

“He and my mom spent their whole lives here,” said Harold, sitting at a table in the restaurant across from his mother. “I’ll miss his work ethic, his mentoring.”

With Art, “every customer was part of the family and a celebrity in his own right,” said Harold, who now runs the restaurant.

Anecdotally, many critics and East Coast transplants have ranked Art’s among Los Angeles’ best delis, alongside such places as Langer’s, Brent’s and the now-defunct Junior’s. In November 2008, when Los Angeles Times food writer Jonathan Gold wrote for L.A. Weekly, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic responded to a reader’s inquiry regarding the best Reuben in town: “[T]he Reuben is the favorite sandwich of Art Ginsburg, the maven of Art’s Deli in Studio City, and sometimes I suspect Ginsburg studies the Reuben the way other great scholars parse the Talmud — adjusting proportions, strength of dressing and sharpness of cheese, crunchiness and ooziness, sweet and tart, until the sandwich speaks simply if profoundly on its own. Art’s is a good deli, but after the Reuben, all else is commentary.”

His widow explained there are no immediate plans to pay tribute to Art within the restaurant.

“The thousands and thousands of Facebook messages and all of the press we received will be sufficient,” Sandy said. “Art would be astounded to be remembered this way by so many people.”

The feisty Art Ginsburg took pride in his Studio City neighborhood.

“He did so much,” Sandy said. “His last biggest thrill: He fought the city to take those horrible meters out.” Remembering how these newly installed meters were originally set up as trial meters, Art placed a few calls. “Within a week, the old meters were back,” Sandy said.

Art’s Deli, located at 12224 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, will be closed on Friday, July 26, but will re-open on Saturday, July 27, at 7 a.m.