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Italian deli in Rome

Delicatessen is a term meaning "delicacies" or "fine foods". The word entered English via German,with the old German spelling (modern German: Delikatessen), plural of Delikatesse "delicacy", ultimately from Latin delicatus.

The term delicatessen has a secondary meaning in some countries, referring to stores that sell delicatessen, hence a shortened term for delicatessen store, sometimes additionally shorted to the informal term deli.

Origin of the word

European delicacies, sold in delicatessen shops, foie gras with Sauternes wine
Delicatessen is a German loanword in English. Reference works state that the word delicatessen comes from the German Delicatessen, the plural form of Delicatesse. (This old spelling later changed to the spelling Delikatessen in modern German.) The word entered German from French délicatesse and means "delicious things (to eat)". It ultimately originated from the Latin adjective delicatus, meaning "giving pleasure, delightful, pleasing".

An alternative, and incorrect, popular etymology supposes that the -essen part of the word is in fact the German verb essen (= English: to eat; also German: das Essen = English: the food). This would imply that the word is a portmanteau of the German words "delikates" (delicious, nominative case) and "Essen".

Product base

Delicatessens in many parts of the world often sell their foods by weight such as cured meats, head cheese, sausages, ham, liverwurst, salami and other cold cuts, fried chicken, spare ribs, cold salads, pickled vegetables, dips, breads and olives. These foods are sold in elegant stores in a specific deli department, or in a separate Delicatessen or Deli shop.

Large Delicatessen stores or Deli shops sell cold cuts and meats, but the luxury food division includes confectionery, fine spirits, wines, exclusive cheeses, truffled pâté, caviar, foie gras, high quality coffee beans, fruit, spices, herbs, specialty breads, exclusive sweets, cookies, honey, tea and luxury handmade chocolate.

Luxury food shops in Europe include Fauchon in Paris, Dallmayrmarker in Munich, Germany and Harrodsmarker and Fortnum & Masonmarker in London.

In the United States

Most delicatessens in the United States have a sandwich menu, most of which are made to order behind the counter at the time of sale. Delicatessens sell cold cuts by weight and prepare party trays.

In addition to made-to-order sandwiches, many U.S. delicatessens offer made-to-order green salads. Equally common is a selection of prepared pasta, potato, chicken, tuna, shrimp, or other variety of "wet" salads, displayed underneath the counter and bought by weight or on a sandwich. Precooked chicken, shrimp, cheese, or eggplant dishes, possibly fried or parmigiana style, are found frequently, though they do not constitute the mainstay of a delicatessen.

In order to provide an opportunity for a complete meal, delicatessens also offer a wide variety of beverages, usually prepackaged soft drinks, coffee, teas, milk, etc. Chips and similar products are available in some variety, though they rarely rival the selection of small package cookies and snack foods; some pre-packaged, others store-made and cellophane wrapped.

Alongside these primarily lunch and dinner products, a delicatessen might also offer a number of additional items geared toward the breakfast eater, including pancakes, bacon, sausage, waffles, omelets and baked goods (breakfast pastries, bagels, toast), yogurt, and warm egg "breakfast sandwiches". Newspapers and small food items such as candy and mints are also usually available for purchase.

Delicatessen menus vary by region and ethnic diversity of the area. While urban delis rely on ethnic meats (Pastrami, Corned Beef, Salami), supermarket delis usually rely more on meats that mirror the packaged meats for sale in the store (Primarily ham, turkey, and American-style bologna). One of the best examples of regional variation is in the southeast, where ham, not sold in Jewish delis, is often the most common meat sold.


In the United Kingdommarker, Irelandmarker, Germanymarker, Austriamarker, Swedenmarker, Hungarymarker, Ukrainemarker, Switzerlandmarker, Denmarkmarker, Belgiummarker, The Netherlandsmarker and Romaniamarker, "Delikatessen" (as it is spelled in current German) has a rather different meaning; it designates top-quality (and top-price) foodstuffs. In German speaking countries common synonym is Feinkost ("fine food") or similar to "Good Eats", and the shops which sell them are called Delikatessenläden ("stores for delicacies"), and department stores often have a Delikatessenabteilung ("delicacies department"). You can also find shops or departments in food stores called Delicatessen in Denmarkmarker, Spainmarker or Belgiummarker. Hungarymarker (called Deli) and The Netherlandsmarker.

Delicatessens may also provide specialist food from other countries and cultures which is not readily available in local food stores.


In Canada, both uses of the term delicatessen are found. First-generation immigrants from Europe often use the term in a manner consistent with its original German meaning. As well, even Jewish delis (as in Montrealmarker, for example) can be either strictly take-out, or mixed take-out and sit-down restaurants.


In most of Australia, delicatessen retains the standard European meaning. Large grocery supermarket chains often incorporate a specific deli department, and there is an abundance of stand-alone independent delicatessens across all parts of the country. Both formats offer a range of cured meats, sausage, pickled vegetables, dips, breads and olives.

The term deli is also used to denote a small convenience store or milk bar in the states of Western Australiamarker and South Australiamarker and some such businesses use deli in their business name. Traditional delicatessens exist in these regions; the term continental delicatessen is sometimes used to specify the European version.

United States

In the United States, a delicatessen store, or deli, is a type of business that could be described as a synthesis of a grocery store and a fast-food restaurant. The delicatessen shop offers a wider and fresher menu than those found at chain fast food restaurants, rarely employing fry machines (except for chicken) and routinely preparing sandwiches to order. They may also serve hot foods kept on a steam table, like a cafeteria.

A grocery store or supermarket may provide its own "deli" food, or even operate a delicatessen on-site. Like a market a delicatessen may also offer a selection of shelved food, often of the type that is not likely to be kept for more than a day. Produce, when present, is limited in quantity and often fresh. The Deli counter of a supermarket is where many people obtain their cold cuts.

Delicatessen shops vary greatly in size but are typically not as large as grocery stores. In areas with high rents for retail space, delicatessen shops are often quite small.

Delicatessens can come from a variety of cultural traditions. In the United States, most numerous are Jewish delicatessens, both kosher and "kosher style." As a result of this, Americans refer to those that specialise in Italian and German cuisine as "European Delicatessens." In Seattle, Washingtonmarker, the term "deli" is often used to indicate take-out restaurants mainly serving Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches, particularly in Little Saigon and the University Districtmarker.

The American equivalents of European style delicatessens are known as gourmet food stores.

Urban affiliation

The North American delicatessen distribution is skewed towards cities, particularly older cities that are less car-oriented, thus favoring walk-in traffic. New York Citymarker is known for its delis, and many delicatessens outside of New York call themselves "New York delis" to evoke images of the traditional New York City delicatessen .

List of famous delicatessens

See also


  1. Loanwords in English
  2. Harrods Famous Deli - Knightsbridge, London Food & Drink
  3. Harrods - London - Accessories, Books, Delicatessen,

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