Quality Italian

57 W 57th St. New York, NY 10019 • (212) 390-1111 •  qualityitalian.com

quality-italian

The name of this restaurant, and its sibling Quality Meats, might be the least alluring names in the restaurant industry other than maybe Fatburger. It reeks of defensiveness. “Ohhh, so you have to say that you’re high ‘quality,’ which obviously means you’re not.

Well, doubters be silenced, because the name is not defensive. It’s accurate. And it’s also quite nice. Again, nothing you would ever glean from a name that evokes images of neon yellow starbursts, but the décor really is well done. Cool and industrial with its exposed cement ceiling (which does make it a bit noisy) and iron beams, mixed with beautiful lighting fixtures, glass walls of wine and rich mahogany.

And speaking of wine, they have a terrific sommelier who buys exceptional wines in such large quantities that they can offer them at incredible prices. For example, we enjoyed a 2009 Brunello at two-thirds the price of what it should’ve been.

Our server, a poor man’s Galifanakis, was also very good, sporting a touch of that New York bite, while still managing to be very attentive and good with the suggestions.

Delving into the menu, which almost reads like part steakhouse, part Italian, I went with the most hyped up dishes I could, while stealing bites off of other plates at my table.

Of those hyped dishes the one I was the most skeptical about was the sausage and pepper toast. It didn’t even sound all that great on paper, like going to see a movie with a boring trailer. Always scary. Scary delicious that is. Sort of a take on a Chicago style hotdog or bratwurst, loaded with onions and hot peppers. Hard to go wrong there.

Unfortunately it was easier to go wrong elsewhere. Two of the other three starters at the table were sub par. The breaded oysters were disappointingly bland for something so loaded up with caloric goodies.

And the shrimp crudo was also a bit of a snore. Granted it tried to be something more, with the use of an herb infused marinade, but it just didn’t impress. On the plus side, the kale salad did.

The next hyped dish to arrive was the dry aged porterhouse agnolotti, and while it is most certainly good, it was the weakest of the three hyped dishes. Cooked al dente and loaded with wonderful flavors from the meat, it was undercut but dryness. And when I compare it to the likes of Manzo’s meat filled agnolotti, it is merely an apprentice in the presence of a master.

As for the non-hyped dishes, the bucatini with clams is very good and I highly recommend. Also served perfectly al dente, but done in a nice red sauce with some kick. The other was a filet cooked perfectly medium rare with a nice char on it, sidled next to a crispy bone marrow presentation that definitely made every bite of the meat sing.

But ohhh the sides. To even call them “sides” is actually a slight, because they are anything but supporting roles, they are Ultimates. And nobody puts baby in a corner, so move them away from the edges of the table- both the corn créme brulée and the Tuscan fries belong center stage. The corn, just as the name implies, is the love child between cream of corn and créme brulée, playing it faithful right down to the hard caramel top. So good you’ll want to shoot it into your veins. And as for the fries, they’re thick cut, with a nice dusting of herbs, salt and pepper. Crispy on the outside and warm and fluffy everywhere else.

Ending strong, our waiter braved the potential comparison to Marc Forgione recommending the s’mores dessert, and while Marc’s still reigns supreme, Quality Italian does a quality job. Served two ways, first as a chocolate tart with graham cracker crust and marshmallow topping, and second as an ice cream. Both are good, but I recommend eating them as separates, not together.

Not without its misses. Not without its hits. But the hits won the day, even in the face of surmounting hype, which brings us to the finally tally of…

4 teeth

 

Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse

157 Chrystie St. New York, NY 10002(212) 673-0330

Vodka

By and large there are two types of steakhouses in the city, the old school types like the Strip House, Old Homestead, Gallagher’s, Smith & Wollensky and Peter Luger. And the newfangled types like BLT Steak, BLT Prime and Quality Meats. And then there’s Sammy’s Roumanian, in a class unto istelf.

And by class I sort of mean the absence of class. You see, there is nothing about Sammy’s that anyone would ever mistake as “classy.” Cheesy perhaps. Schticky for certain. But definitely not classy. And the thing is, Sammy full on knows this and makes zero attempt to avoid it. Rather they embrace it full on, diving head first into an experience that feels like a three-way between The Wedding Singer, Tony & Tina’s Wedding and beef.

The festivities begin with a bottle of vodka served in a block of ice, placed directly on your table. No shit. Check out the picture above. So when it comes to your alcohol tolerance, bring your A game. Especially if you’re a smaller party.

Thereafter, you will be entertained by a Bat MItzvah-type emcee who looks like he stepped out of the 80’s, armed with a keyboard, a microphone and an arsenal of vaudeville puns that will have you cringing from ear to ear, so much that it somehow becomes smiling. Call it magic. Call it vodka. Whatever it be, it’s fun. You simply just can’t have a bad time here. I don’t know why. Because every fiber of your being would tell you otherwise. But it is the genuine nature in which it is pulled off that keeps it pure. It is the spirit and vibe of the place that keeps it light. And it is the originality and novelty of experience that makes it a fresh departure from its comparatively stuffy cohorts.

So what about the food? Well, it’s not quite up there with the best, but Sammy does have its moments. The meat, while garlicky, is still pretty good, granted you shouldn’t expect an array of beef cuts to choose from. However things like chopped liver with schmaltz, smashed potatoes with onions, stuffed cabbage and an egg cream dessert will all make up for whatever is missing with a coma-inducing chicken fat hangover. Bon appetite!

4 teeth