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Long before the publicity-savvy owners named a gut-busting pastrami-and-corned-beef sandwich after him, a struggling Woody Allen found a comforting refuge in the Carnegie Deli as he honed his comedic chops.
“I used to eat at the Carnegie long before I became a comedian because the food was delicious, and in those days, I had no fear of eating corned beef, pastrami or any other things that now I feel would destroy my life,” the 81-year-old filmmaker told The Post about the Big Apple landmark, which will serve up its last meal on Friday night.
It was the ’50s and early ’60s, and Allen wasn’t the only one seeking solace in the snappy late-night patter and fragrant pleasures of smoked meats, chopped liver and latkes at the classic Jewish deli on Seventh Avenue at 55th Street, near Carnegie Hall.
Woody Allen at Carnegie DeliJane Martin McGrath
“It was a great place to sit around and talk with other comedy writers,” Allen said.
Even after he became a wildly successful writer, stand-up comic and director, the atmosphere — and the mouth-watering menu — kept him coming back.
Allen immortalized his love affair with the deli when he used it as the setting for much of the 1984 comedy “Broadway Danny Rose” — in which he played a fast-talking but hapless talent agent who pretended to date a character named Tina, played by Mia Farrow.
One of Allen’s characters regaled a gang of fellow showbiz types gathered at the deli with the tale of how Tina, a former mob moll, was dating one of his clients.
“I got to eat there all the time and was able to rationalize it because I was working there, even though I knew how bad it was for me,” Allen said.
“So when I was working there and work necessitated that I eat there all the time, I was able to get past my guilt over that amount of pleasure in that short of space.”
Allen was far from the only celeb to nosh at Carnegie over the years; the walls are covered with scores of framed shots of politicians, sports heroes, actors, performers and others too numerous to mention.
Celebs like Henry Kissinger, Meryl Streep, Bob Fosse, Warren Beatty and John Glenn plus many others stopped in over the years for a bite.
Henny Youngman, the king of one-liners, was a regular and eulogized co-owner Leo Steiner on his death in 1987 as “the deli lama.” In fact, Steiner’s service was more of a yuckfest than a time for tears.
“Whaddya mean, ‘Is chicken soup good for you?’ You ever see a chicken with a cold?” Steiner cracked on a videotape that was shown during the memorial.
Steiner and two partners, Fred Klein and Milton Parker, bought the Carnegie in 1976 from the original owners, who had run it since 1937.
Parker — known as the Chief Pastrami Maven — was known for starting every workday by chowing down on a foot-long frank.