It's not an act: Phil Rosenthal, the creator and writer behind hit Everybody Loves Raymond and the current star of Netflix food show Somebody Feed Phil, really is as sweet as he appears to be on screen.
Rosenthal's honest disposition is mostly apparent while he greets a remarkable number of fans at Breads Bakery on the Upper West Side on a recent Thursday morning.
In town to sign copies of his new cookbook, Somebody Feed Phil the Book: Untold Stories, Behind-the-Scenes Photos and Favorite Recipe, the 62-year-old is at his most genuine while meeting a devotee who recently binge-watched the Netflix episodes chronicling Rosenthal’s trip through Asia while on her honeymoon in the same countries.
Perhaps most notable, though, is the appearance of the television star's iconic expression of surprise—wide-open eyes, speechlessness, gaping mouth, raised eyebrows—as he meets a very New York-like couple that—surprise!—bought his parents' apartment nearby.
“Would you like to come see it?” they excitedly ask Rosenthal, who, although clearly delighted and interested, is in a rush to catch a train.
In-between pleasant meetings with fans and signing opportunities, Rosenthal opens up about what makes sharing meals so special, his favorite steakhouses and supermarkets. Plus: where he goes to indulge in one of the best sandwiches in the world.
On his favorite New York City restaurants
"The first place I've ever had a real steak outside my parents' home is Gallaghers. I just went again and it was fantastic. I didn't even want steak after having it at home, back then, because it wasn't very good: we couldn't afford good cuts of meat and my mother never really had time to learn how to cook. Also: Peter Luger is my absolute favorite.
On his favorite local supermarket
"Zabar's! I love their white fish salad, I love their lox, I love all their appetizers and nobody makes a better herring."
On the best sandwich in the world
"I love Sherry Herring, which recently opened on the Upper West Side. They serve one of the best sandwiches in the world. When you get in, ask them to scoop out the bread so the ratio of the herring and bread is perfect and the way they do it in Tel Aviv. It's a delicious herring sandwich and you would think that it's very shtetel, very old school but they put a little chili pepper in it and it totally brings it into the 21st century.
I'm just so in love with the whole ethos of that place. The quality of the fish and everything else is perfect. I have taken many people there and they all flip out because it doesn't sound good but it's fantastic."
On what makes sharing a meal special
"Food is the great connector and laughs are the cement. If you and I have a meal together, we already relate to each other because we all have got to eat and we know what that's like no matter where we are in the world. If we can also laugh a little bit, we're now friends and we'll meet again."