Quality Italian: Come for the Steak, Stay for the Pasta and Parm
Quality Italian Steakhouse is the newest New York restaurant from Michael Stillman, the man behind Quality Meats (and the son of legendary restaurateur Alan Stillman, the man behind T.G.I Fridays and Smith & Wollensky). Recently opened on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 57th Street, the bi-level space serves steaks, pasta, and other Italian dishes, most notably a gargantuan chicken Parm that’s one of the city’s most inventive plays on the classic dish.
The space is smartly designed, with an open-air wine bar on the ground level and a second floor that boasts a spacious bar area and two dining rooms that give off a slight industrial steampunk vibe while remaining homey and rustic. The staff was incredibly friendly during my visit, just as quick to complement your necklace as they are to explain a dish or suggest an approach to the menu.
With so many different food options, you’d be wise to accept their advice. There’s a raw bar with shrimp, oysters, lobster, and two shellfish towers; a crudo section with a selection of raw fish preparations like yellowtail with shishito pepperonata and lime; a "For the Table" section of cured meats, ricotta, and even caviar; and salads including tomato and stracciatella, Caesar, and Italian chopped. And all this is before we even get to the "Appetizers" section, which includes several homages to old-school Italian-American fare, with a twist: sausage and pepper garlic toast, baked clams, grilled octopus saltimbocca, and steak tartare.
The fresh-made pasta section is small, but you’d be smart to start by sharing a couple of these. The dry-aged porterhouse agnolotti are filled with shredded beef that you can tell is high-grade, and it’s served in a vinegar-kicked butter sauce, and the gluten-free ricotta-based corn gnudi, tossed with butter, ground pistachios, basil, and black pepper, are little pillows of decadence that would be at home at the centerpiece of any Italian restaurant’s menu. But not here, though: that would belong to the steak, which we’ll get to, and the chicken Parmesan, which is brought out on a pizza tray and served just like a pizza: sliced into wedges and served on a little elevated platform, with a little spatula so you can serve yourself. It’s a nod to the fun, whimsical nature of the menu that’s not apparent on the outside.
As for that steak, you’d be wise to forgo the individual steaks and convince someone at your table to share the monstrous Bistecca Fiorentina porterhouse for two with you. The dry-aged beef develops a dark crust, and is sliced before being served like all the city’s great porterhouses. This one is right there with them: mineral-rich, slightly funky, and melt-in-your-mouth. On the side, order the Tuscan garlic fries (the Parmesan aioli served with them is so delicious and rich it should be illegal), and the creamy corn crème brûlée, complete with a blowtorched crust.
If there’s a return to tableside preparation trend in the works, Quality Italian will be at the vanguard of it: After your steak is ordered your waiter will prepare a sauce for it (a heady mix of fresh Italian herbs, maple raisin purée, and puréed roasted garlic and tomatoes) on a cart wheeled over to your table, and an old-school lobster fra diavolo is also flambéed, with much fanfare, tableside.
With dinner planned at Quality Italian, there’s no reason to reserve theater tickets for entertainment after the meal. A meal here is all the entertainment you’ll need for the evening; you’ll leave full and also with a feeling you don’t get at too many restaurants these days: one that you’ve just had a really fun time.