It’s heartbreaking to walk to a favorite restaurant only to discover it closed during Covid, adding to a list that’s by now in the thousands.
To our delight, we discovered that Pietro’s Italian Restaurant in Manhattan survived the spate of city-wide closings. It’s just steps from Grand Central Terminal where once was the Roosevelt Hotel, and nestled beneath the Pfizer building. They posted a sign thanking Pfizer for their survival.
The modest entrance is deceiving. Inside is a marvelous large space with comfortable multi-level seating, crisp white tablecloths, sharply dressed friendly staff, and fabulous menu options.
As you enter, you’ll see a poster board indicating their founding year of 1932.
Our waiter explained a series of mouth-watering specials as we perused the menu. Delicious fresh bread and spring water were delivered almost immediately.
We started with the clams casino and meatball appetizers (part of the daily specials), well crafted and delicious. The meatball, a secret combination of flavorful ingredients, was accompanied by a vegetable and mushroom-adorned red sauce.
For the main course, we ordered the veal and peppers. The veal was thin and tender, with a delightful light sauce flavored with mushrooms and sliced green peppers. Noting that entree servings were large at neighboring tables, we easily shared our generous portion.
The dessert offerings included Italian classics like cheesecake. tiramisu, biscotti, and cannolis. Cannolo (Italian for “Little Tube”) is a dessert favorite originating in Sicily, Italy, and a symbol for fertility. We chose this because of its unique presentation — flat cookie-like pastry pieces replaced the usual tubes with the filling served separately in a sundae dish.
At the cannoli’s invention, Sicily was occupied by Arabs, and making traditional food was a cultural priority. The cannoli became a traditional treat for Carnivale, a festive season occurring before Lent that features parades and masquerades.
The typical cannoli outer shell is pastry dough fashioned into a conical shape and fried. This is where Pietro’s genius comes in. You can enjoy as much filling as you like by serving the pastry flat. The cannoli’s flavor emanates from its sweet filling and its creamy mixture is usually made from ricotta or mascarpone cheese. Here they chose to use both. The cheese is sweetened with sugar or honey and served with other ingredients like chocolate, pistachios, candied citrus, marsala wine, and even rose water. Ours had cinnamon and chocolate pieces.
Americanized versions are made of a simple custard from sugar, milk, and cornstarch accented with vanilla. These are hardly worth eating and thankfully not served in this authentic restaurant.
Dessert went well with a steaming, delicious cup of cappuccino topped with a dash of cinnamon. Local denizens recommended we try Pietro’s fabulous steaks next time.
232 E 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017-4713
Located between Second and Third Avenue on E 43rd
Local (212) 682-9760 | Toll Free (929) 329-1710