For the past three years, Phil Rosenthal, creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” has been travelling the world in search of great food and lasting friendship. A nebbish-y Anthony Bourdain, Rosenthal began his culinary tourism in 2015 with the PBS show, “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having.” This first entrée (pardon the pun) was followed up earlier this year by a new globetrotting series for Netflix, “Somebody Feed Phil,” whose second season dropped last weekend.
Though Rosenthal eats a metric ton of pork over three seasons — and even feeds some of the treyf trotters this time around — it’s hard to imagine a show with a more Jewish sensibility.
Visiting Buenos Aires eatery “Mishiguene,” Rosenthal laments this inclination somewhat. “How many Jewish places can we go to?” he declaims. “I don’t want it to be so Jewish, all the time Jewish!” But by the time he samples the world’s fanciest gefilte fish, blows a bit on a nearby shofar and knocks back a shot of vodka, he softens. “What a lovely piece of Judaica this is!” he says of the vodka dispenser, engraved with the landscape of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Rosenthal in fact, revels in his background, deploying Yiddish words like “khaloshing” when describing his state during a gondoliering lesson in Venice. His eyes go wide when a Dublin breakfast spot serves up babka. He ends every episode with a Skype call to his parents, Helen and Max, whose fond, but bickering, dynamic is familiar to most Jews with parents, or grandparents, of a certain age.
Of course, a trip to New York City staple Zabar’s with comedienne Judy Gold results in a chorus of unprompted opinions on Fox’s U-Bet by fellow shoppers. He even samples ice cream on the Lower East Side with Elaine May. He ends the trip to his native New York by having his mother prepare the one dish of hers he holds in high regard — matzo ball soup, which gets a four star-rating from Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud.
But the most heartening Jewish ethos Rosenthal brings to the table is one of inclusion, welcoming the stranger and fostering a worldwide community by breaking bread. “I have friends all over the world now” Rosenthal says at the end of this season’s first episode. “Shouldn’t we be friends with people from all over the world? That alone is the reason to go, to visit the friends that you make in these places. But you gotta start somewhere: so go! Go now! Stop watching this. Go!”
All right, all right, we’ll go already! We’ll schlep to the airport. But first, another episode so we know what we should nosh on the journey.
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern