the spot: Pietro’s 232 E. 43rd St. New York NY 10017
the eats: Shells a la Nat, New York Strip Steak for two, Caesar salad with bacon
the bucks: $26, $106, and $16 respectively, plan on $100 a head with a stiff drink in the mix
the full nelson: historic NYC steakhouse that twists the traditional line up with pastas, parms and a bacon laced Caesar salad.
Pietro’s has been on my radar since 2007, when I came across a tasty blog called Beef Aficionado that sang the praises of an old school Italian Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan. I love steak. I love to make it at home and I love to order it at restaurants. And I love the idea of a steakhouse. But, being the thrifty foodie that I am, time and time again I find myself disappointed in the Steakhouse experience. I mean, in the end of the day it just ain’t that big of a deal for me to buy a pricey steak at a top shelf butcher and still spend a fraction of what I would at a steakhouse. Yet I keep going back and dropping more than I probably should for a beefy over the top dinner. Well, that you will certainly find at Pietro’s my friends.
I came across a New York Times article a few years back that highlighted Pietro’s as the last of a dying breed of Mad Men era style steakhouses. What a 24 year old Instagrammer might hashtag as dated, is in fact a dining room that seems to have withstood the test of time. Approximately 87 years in fact, as Pietro’s has been going strong since 1932. I can’t say I want my living room to look like the interior of Pietro’s but something about it does feel right. This is New York after all, and history surrounds you, as long as you’re not buried in your iPhone 24/7.
If there is a single dish that is a must order at these old school Steakhouses or Italian restaurants, it is a Caesar salad. Anchovies aren’t for everyone but they do seem to become more welcomed in a Caesar salad that is to be followed up by a large steak. Years back I went to the celebrated old school Italian restaurant Dan Tana’s in LA, I found the food to be borderline abysmal, especially when one considers the price, but the Caesar salad was golden. I’m not sure how bacon got in the mix in my Caesar at Pietro’s but it almost justifies the $16 price tag.
The Shells a la Nat are also a must order. Finished in a bone marrow sauce, these shells are richer and more beefy than even the steak. Plus you are in an Italian Steakhouse so forgo any notion of hash browns or baked potato and save the carbs for a pasta dish. Just be prepared to fork over some dough for this dough: the shells a la Nat will run you $26.
The New York strip for two will run you a little over $100 and it is a decent amount of beef but certainly not a life changing steak experience. In a world where Wagyu, Grass fed and locally sourced beef become commonplace, the steak at Pietro’s is just nothing special. No concentrated flavors from dry aging were present and overall the steak tasted more like Sunday Roast Beef. Not bad, but just not that special.
As a tourist in NYC with a decent wad of cash to blow, I was happy to give Pietro’s a test drive. The atmosphere and service were tuned to a classic NYC level of professionalism. My waiter knew when my drink was ready for a refill and you could feel the affinity my fellow diners have for this NYC dining institution. If I do go back, I might focus on the Italian American classics like a Clams Casino, and maybe split a Chicken Parm. Yeah, Pietro’s just might be worth a second shot. Because as overpriced and as dated as the food may be, Pietro’s offers a glimpse of a glorious past of New York City and that glimpse, sooner or later will disappear forever. And when that day comes, I will look back at my tab Pietro’s and realize it was indeed worth every penny.