How Eastern Europeans forever changed the New York steakhouse. Case Study: Tuscan Steakhouse

The old-fashioned macho attitude that was the rule at old-school New York steakhouses like Palm, Smith & Wollensky and Peter Luger where the butler would say things like, “Got a reservation at seven? So do a lot of people. Wait at the bar, “and the waiters barely muttered,” How do you want your steak to be done? has been, thank goodness, replaced over the past decade with a warm and welcoming hospitality that seemed to start around the time Wolfgang’s Steakhouse opened near Grand Central Terminal. Wolfgang Zwiener, who had spent decades as a waiter at Luger, was determined to serve food as good as any in New York City, but to eliminate rudeness and focus on good service. And he had the good sense to hire a large number of already experienced waiters from Eastern Europe – Albanian, Slovenian, Croatian, Montenegrin – whose behavior was far from the old “sit-’em’-and -‘serve-’em “routine.

Indeed, with so many of the city’s steakhouses now owned by these former servers and serving the same very high quality beef, seafood and wine, they have won their followers by going out of their way to please their regulars. and newcomers. For example, the Toscane Steakhouse, whose owner, of Albanian origin Steve Haxhiaj, had been GM at Wolfgang and former owner of Il Monello, as well as chef Jaime Chabla, from Ecuador, also a former student of Wolfgang. The four-year-old restaurant has a good downtown location, near the Theater District, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center. After surviving the pandemic, the Tuscany Steakhouse is back in its old form, just like its regulars.

The main dining room is whitewashed brick with Roman arches trimmed in oak, with extremely comfortable black leather chairs, thick white tablecloths, and a mirrored wall. When I visited the room was very dimly lit – which is very unusual for a steakhouse – but they kindly turned the ceiling lights up a bit when asked which created a much more homey atmosphere.

The menu has the sacrosanct form followed throughout the city, with as much emphasis on entrees, soups, seafood, and side dishes as meat. Other than a few pastas, there’s nothing particularly Tuscan on the menu, but a special evening of ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers ($ 15) was a very welcome addition. Otherwise, the entrees were of excellent quality, including a jumbo shrimp cocktail ($ 25.95), with an emphasis on the jumbo. The Baked Clam Oreganata ($ 20.95) retained the crab flavor amid the subtle seasonings, and the Fried Calamari ($ 24.95) showed the same. You start with a generous basket of cloves and a nice plate of butter.

We, of course, opted for the porterhouse steak ($ ​​56.95), which is sliced ​​for two or more, and its preparation was second to none, with a nicely charred exterior and a pink-red interior, all absorbing the hot and buttered juices on the platter. Colorado lamb chops ($ 53.95) and veal chop ($ 54.95) were equally satisfying, and more jumbo shrimp were treated with a “scampi” rendering ($ 42.95) d garlic, lemon and white wine, and a plump Chilean sea bass ($ 47.95) was perfectly cooked and finely flaky. They list whole lobster (MP) on the menu but none were available when I visited.

Creamed spinach ($ 12.95) and hash browns ($ 13.95) make wonderful sides, but I highly recommend trying the mashed potatoes ($ 11.95), though rich in butter, smooth mashed and made with flavorful premium potatoes. The sides are easily shared.

All of the gargantuan-sized desserts are prepared on site, including a large piece of tiramisu, a juicy apple strüdel and a velvety creme brulee.

Haxhiaj chooses the wines himself, with 300 labels from each wine-producing country, with average margins 100% higher than retail. There are 15 wines by the glass from $ 15.95 to $ 22.95.

With such good food and paramount customer care at Toscane Steak, I can’t really imagine why people would want to sit elsewhere in a cacophonous steakhouse, screaming to be heard, with waiters barking information and a host who seems confused by too many people at once. That won’t be the case at Toscane Steak, one of New York’s most civilized steakhouse experiences.


117 West 58e street


The Toscane Steak is open for dinner Monday through Saturday.

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About Alan Adams

Alan Adams

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