When celebrities append their names to restaurants they have a hand in opening, the results are often nothing special; more sports stars than any other type of celeb open restaurants, so they’re usually sports bars that double as shrines to their on-field achievements. But actor Chazz Palminteri, best known for his roles in A Bronx Tale and Bullets over Broadway, has a winner on his hands with his new eponymous Italian restaurant, which recently opened in New York’s Midtown East; it’s about as classy and old-school as it gets, and Palminteri lets it speak for itself, only making his presence known in the name and when he drops in to greet customers.
On a recent visit at the invitation of the restaurant, the eatery was nearly at capacity with what appeared to be a nice mix of locals and guests at the many hotels in the area. The dining room is comfortable and the tables are nicely-spaced, with a color scheme of dark wood with gold, red, and orange touches. It has a clubby feel, and the wine list is surprisingly expansive, with about 250 bottles, decently priced and predominantly Italian and Californian.
If you’ve ever been to an upscale Italian restaurant you’ll most likely recognize the menu; it’s full of classic Italian dishes, and the preparations are faithful and well-executed. Appetizers include prosciutto & melone, caprese with homemade mozzarella, grilled artichoke hearts, grilled octopus with broccoli rabe, and homemade soups including minestrone and lobster soup. There’s a wide variety of risottos and fresh pastas, including mixed seafood risotto, homemade pappardelle Bolognese, squid ink linguine with fresh clams in red or white clam sauce, lobster ravioli in brandy sauce, bucatini carbonara, and gnocchi in veal ragout. As for entrees, those include whole baked or grilled branzino, grilled wild salmon with a plum chili sauce, chicken scarpariello, veal saltimbocca, and grilled rack of veal chop. There’s also a nice selection of steaks, including sliced steak alla pizzaiola, filet mignon, and chateaubriand for two; Palminteri partnered with the Empire Steakhouse team to open the restaurant, so the steakhouse cred is certainly there.
A special appetizer of langoustines was slightly overcooked but nicely complemented with a spinach salad; and another special, veal ossobocco, was meltingly tender and served with a flavorful and on-point risotto. The grilled rack of veal chop, listed on the menu as “Cremagliera Bronx Grigliate di Vitello” was a large double-cut chop, topped with sautéed onions, mushrooms, peppers, and fresh herbs, and was perfectly caramelized on the outside and cooked to a perfect medium. Service was friendly and knowledgeable, and the meal was well-paced and leisurely.
There’s no shortage of pricey old-school Italian restaurants in New York City, but this stretch of Midtown East has been desperately in need of a hangout like this; it also looks like it would be a great power lunch spot. Palminteri’s work on stage and screen has made him a king of New York, and this restaurant lets him sit even a little higher on his throne.