Written by Hulda Lawrence
Patsy's, 236 West 56th, (212) 247-3491, is an institution in New York City and has been ensconced at its address between Broadway and Eighth Avenue since 1954. It was founded in 1944 by Pasquale "Patsy" Scognamillo; now the chef-owner is Sal Scognamillo, the grandson of the late Patsy. Known for many years as the favorite place where Frank Sinatra felt very much at home, today it attracts such luminaries as Placido Domingo, Al Pacino, Tony Bennett, Robert De Niro, Chris Noth and Jamie Farr to name just a few patrons. Located just a few steps from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Theatre District, one can dine before or after a performance on very good Italian cuisine in a friendly atmosphere.
At a recent lunch visit at Patsy's, we were greeted by Joe Scognamillo, father of the current chef, but he was the previous chef. We were seated and brought the large menu and offered a choice of aperitifs. My companion had her usual Negroni, but I ordered Punt e Mes and it was better than any I had had for many years.
From the vast menu we decided to "taste" different dishes and began with Clams Casino hot from the oven and nicely seasoned. As we nibbled and enjoyed out drinks there was considerable pounding in the background. For a bit I thought it was a musical group, but later discovered it was treatment of the veal for several entrees. The downstairs room where we sat was fairly noisy and guests were able to converse easily with no musical harmonies except the occasional pounding.
We wanted to try a pasta, and our waiter suggested a homemade fettuccine with a fresh tomato and basil sauce. He was right - it as delicious. Other pastas include: Spaghetti or Whole Wheat Pasta Marinara, Rigatoni Fra Diavolo, Tortellini Bolognese, Cheese Ravioli, Linguine al Pesto, Gnocchi with Meat Sauce, Manicotti, Penne ala Vodka, Bucatini all'Amatriciana and Capellini Fileto. Pastas range from $15 to $18.
Frank DiCola, another family member, was in charge of the vast wine cellar and suggested we share a bottle of Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc which was nicely dry and refreshing. It was $38. Among the fascinating wines in his charge, there are some fine Brunellos from $60 to $950 for a 1964 Biodi-Santi. In addition to these fine Tuscan wines there are a wide variety of wines from all over Italy as well as some from France and the United States. There are some wines available by the glass for $9; other vintages are $25 and up by the bottle.
Although there is a daily three-course luncheon at Patsy's for $20.02 until Labor Day there always is a special luncheon with several entrees. From Patsy's "Signature Dishes" we selected Veal Rollatine Marsala, stuffed with mozzarella, Parmigiana-Reggiano, mushrooms and prosciutto. Our second choice was Calf's Liver Veneziano, sauteed with onions, veal stock, butter and balsamic vinegar. Both dishes were excellent and generous in portion size.
Entrees termed "Specials" are Cavatelli alla Bolognese, Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Ravioli, Chicken Fra Diavolo, Chicken Rollatine alla Cacciatora, Chilean Sea Bass and, since they are in season, Soft Shell Crabs either sauteed or Milanese. From the regular menu there is Chicken Contadina, Veal Chop Siciliano, Stewed Tripe alla Napoletana, Lobster Fra Diavolo, Stuffed Calamari, Linguine Marechiare with Little Neck Clams, Shrimp Marinara, Lobster Arreganata, Striped Bass Livornese, Salmon with Mustard Sauce, Filet Mignon Marsala , Veal Piccata, Veal Pizzaiola with mushrooms and peppers, Stuffed Veal Chop Marsala, Chicken Livers Pizzaiola and Pork Chops with Vinegar Peppers (all $18 to $28).
From the dessert menu we sampled Torta di Ricotta, traditional Italian Cheesecake with a hint of orange, and Tiramisu done here with Kahlua. We sipped out cappuccinos and felt that all was right with the world.
The many happy diners over the years have encouraged Patsy's to develop a line of sauces, oils, vinegars and vegetables which can be purchased at the restaurant or by phone. For information (212) 247-3491 and for orders 800-372-8797. Sauces are Marinara, Pizzaiola, Puttanesca, Tomato Basil, Vodka, Fra Diavolo and Amatriciana.
Patsy's Cookbook: Classic Italian Recipes from a New York City Landmark Restaurant has just been published, written by Sal Scognamillo with a forward by Nancy Sinatra and with contributions by some of the many celebrities who enjoy the restaurant. Among the recipes presented are: Frank Sinatra's Clams Posillipo, Veal Marsala, and Sauteed Mushrooms with Cognac and Cabernet Sauvignon. Published by Clarkson Potter at $27.50 in hard cover it presents 100 recipes and many fascinating stories. It can be purchased at bookstores.
Hours: Noon to 10:15 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; Closing a 11:15 on Friday and Saturday
Planet Hollywood is not just a restaurant located in the center of New York City at 45th Street and Broadway, (212) 333-7827; it is a fun experience. Yes, the food is very good with plenty of choices. It is noisy, with many screens showing movies, exhibits of movie costumes, memorabilia suspended from the ceiling to evoke famous films and above all a competent, friendly staff.
From the list of drinks with fascinating names we opted for "Indecent Proposal," a margarita of Cuervo Gold Tequila and Cointreau topped with Grand Marnier, and "The Comet" of Spiced Rum, Absolut Vodka, Myers' Rum and Dekuyper Razzmataz. Prices for these specialty cocktails range from $7.95 except for The Comet which is $14.95, but for that you can keep the attractive glass as a souvenir. With our drinks we shared a Parmesan Spinach Dip which was accompanied by excellent white corn chips and spicy pico de gallo. We also shared Blackened Shrimp which were served with a good Creole mustard sauce. Texas Tostados, Chicken Crunch and Buffalo Wings are other appetizers.
As we nibbled and drank we noticed how attractive the platters of food were arranged as salads and sandwiches were being served to our neighboring diners. The same menu is available all day and evening.
Our server, Fabiola was from Haiti, was enormously helpful in describing the food to us and advising us on our selections. We ordered a plain Hamburger which came with crisp, delicious fries and the meat quite rare as wanted. Our other dish was Cobb Salad, described as a chiffonade of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, Gruyere cheese, smoked turkey breast, hickory smoked bacon, fresh avocado and chopped eggs tossed with a tangy Russian dressing. In this version, everything was beautifully chopped and the whole melange was a joy! With our salad and burger we sipped glasses of Pinot Grigio and Merlot at $7.50 each. House wines are a bit less.
In addition to sandwiches, including Roast Beef Club, Portobello Mushroom with Fresh Mozzarella, BBQ Pulled Pork, Shrimp and Bacon Club, and Grilled Vegetable Salad as well as Shrimp and Caesar Salad, there are six pastas including L.A. Lasagne, in which pasta tubes are filled with ricotta and Bolognese sauce, fried and topped with a four-cheese sauce. Pasta prices are $10.95 to $15.95 for the shrimp varieties. There are five pizza specialties including BBQ which combines grilled diced chicken, sauteed onions, Monterey Jack Cheese and cheddar cheeses on a tangy sweet barbecue sauce. Another interesting pizza combines chicken, spinach and artichoke on Parmesan basil cream sauce. Pizzas are $10.95 for Four Cheese Pizza with the others $1 more.
For those with heartier appetites there are grilled specialties including New York Strip Steak with baked potato and vegetable at $20.95; Grilled Salmon, a filet glazed with maple butter and accompanied by mashed potato and vegetable; Sizzling Fajitas; Double Thick Pork Chop and BBQ Ribs. The grill specialties are $14.95 for the Fajitas to $20.95 for the Rib Eye or New York Strip Steak.
Desserts are rich and good. White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Ice Cream and Jim Beam bourbon sauce made a wonderfully ending for our lunch. Desserts are $6.95 to $9.95 for New York Cheesecake. Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie is $8.95; Apple Brown Betty, Snickers Pie and Oreo Pie are $7.95 each while ice cream and sorbet are $3.95.
After-dinner coffees start at $2.95 for Espresso. We indulged in after dinner-drinks "Breathless" of Di Saronno Amaretto and Frangelico blended with coffee and whipped cream and "Far and Away" of Bushmills Irish Whiskey, Kahlua and coffee with whipped cream. These fancies are $7.45.
This is a great place for before or after theatre. Planet Hollywood can accommodate groups and might be a place for relaxing after a stiff business meeting. It can provide a private screening room for 49 and there are TV monitors throughout the main dining area.
Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 11 a.m. to midnight
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.