Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

How Celine Dion Helped Save Montreal’s Iconic Jewish Deli

(JTA) — Near, far — wherever you are — Schwartz’s is known for being one of Montreal’s oldest and most storied Jewish delis. Its famed smoked meat — a subtly different cousin of pastrami — has attracted scores of customers since it opened in 1928.

Still, for even the most popular delis, the road can be tough and uncertain. The Carnegie Deli, a New York institution since 1937, is set to close on Dec. 31. Los Angeles staples Billy’s and Solley’s both closed last year.

And as Alina Simone notes at Public Radio International, Schwartz’s ran into some ownership trouble of its own four years ago. That’s when the late Montreal restaurateur Paul Nakis helped convince singer Celine Dion, an iconic Quebec native, and her husband, Rene Angelil, to invest in the deli and become part owners.

“It’s the most unique restaurant in the world and we’re thrilled to be a part of it,” Angelil said at the time. (He died in January.)

The vocal powerhouse, a Catholic, might seem like a strange match for a Jewish deli, but she and her husband had already invested in the Nickels restaurants, which has become Quebec’s largest smoked meat chain.

Frank Silva, the current general manager at Schwartz’s, told Simone that his deli’s Jewish clientele was originally a little skeptical of its non-Jewish ownership. But nothing has changed over the years — from the custom of smoking meat for 10 days to baking the bread daily — so the customers are still happy, he said.

“We run the show, and as long as the line is around the block, [the owners] let us do our jobs,” Silva said.

Dion made a surprise appearance at the deli in August, where she signed autographs and treated diners to a free lunch. But no word on whether or not she broke into a ballad or two.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.