Carnegie brings slice of NY to Mirage

Jul 4, 2005 3:05 AM

 

Ask Sandy Levine what his official title is at the world famous Carnegie Deli, and he’ll say MBD.

"Married the boss’ daughter," Levine said. "That’s how you get ahead. You can only get that degree in Brooklyn."

It’s that type of philosophy, humor or whatever that interested The Mirage heads of state to convince Levine that the Carnegie needed to set up shop in Las Vegas.

"Funny story behind that," Levine said during one of his monthly checkup visits to Vegas. "We were done negotiating with The Mirage last October. Bobby Baldwin headed a group that came to New York on a Monday. I never saw them.

"It was a Monday, our slowest day, and it was cold and rainy. There was a line around the block — on our slowest day! That convinced them to sign us."

Levine, 62, is loving life running the Deli since 1992.

"What makes us different from other delis is that we make our own products," Levine said. "We have our processing plant in New Jersey under the auspices of the U.S. government. We don’t buy from a middle man.

"We make our own meat and hold to strict guidelines," Levine continued. "Our company is a close-knit unit. We hire from within. My chefs start out as dishwashers."

It was a major coup for Mirage when the Carnegie opened in February, and no wonder. The deli spawned world wide acclaim in 1991 when CBS 60 Minutes reporter Bob Simon’s first request after being held hostage for 40 days in Iraq was for a Carnegie-made pastrami and corned beef sandwich.

The incredible publicity later led to a best-selling book, "How to Feed Friends and Influence People," penned by Carnegie owner Milton Parker and author Allyn Freeman.

"I make the trip to Vegas to hear the good and bad things," Levine said. "Most of the people don’t understand the difference between pastrami and corned beef. I personally work the menu, adding features and getting waiters to understand the cuisine."

The Carnegie at Mirage seats 102, compared to 165 in the New York original. Other than that, it’s vintage Carnegie dating to 1937.

The restaurant — which features an open-air ambiance to the casino — is located near The Mirage’s race and sports book, and there is often a line of people waiting to get in.

"The place is meeting both my expectations and the Mirage’s," Levine said. "People who come here from the New York area and are now transplanted here like that we brought from the Carnegie. For instance, you want an egg cream (chocolate syrup, milk, seltzer whipped up in a foam), we have it."

Levine says the eating experience at Carnegie comes down to three mottos.

”¡ If you can put your mouth around one of our sandwiches we made a mistake.

”¡ You can’t leave until you finish.

”¡ If you finish, we made a mistake.

"If I see an empty plate, I get nervous," he said. "I think the customer has had enough. We encourage people to take doggie bags home. We came to Mirage because they understand us. We have been in business for 68 years. We don’t deviate."

Levine keeps Carnegie open here daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. All leftover food is thrown away. "Competitors who fail don’t carry menus like a New York-style deli," Levine said. "We know a good knish when we see one."

 

CARNEGIE LINGO

Pistol on a whiskey down: pastrami, slaw, Russian dressing on rye.

One of each: pastrami and corned beef sandwich

Echo: a repeat.

86: out of an item

Betty Grable: cheesecake

Wreck’em: scrambled eggs

 

 

CARNEGIE CHEESECAKE

Baked three times — at 375, 500 and 350 degrees.

Old World style. Hand made in cookie dough.

Enjoy it plain or topped with blueberries, cherries or strawberries.

Or for a real exotic treat try either the all chocolate cheesecake, super delicious rugelach cheesecake or the award-winning truffle torte cheesecake.