Delmonico’s Dresses Down to Spread Its Reign: Q&A With Owner Dennis Turcinovic

When brothers John and Peter Delmonico opened the first Delmonico’s in Downtown Manhattan in 1827, they helped pioneer fine dining in the city. As one of the top establishments of its time, the famous steakhouse created what are now classic dishes including lobster Newberg, baked Alaska, and of course, the Delmonico steak.

Over the years, the original Delmonico’s changed hands and buildings. Now, it’s owned by Dennis Turcinovic, who just opened Delmonico’s Kitchen, a more laid back version of the iconic fine dining joint. This is just the beginning of a chain of Delmonico’s as they plan to open locations all across the world. I chatted with Turcinovic to find out just what he has in mind.

What does it mean for Delmonico’s to open a more casual eatery?
We are so excited to bring the history of the original Delmonico’s to Midtown. Even though Delmonico’s is my home and where I was raised, I wanted to create a certain ambiance at Delmonico’s Kitchen, a place that is louder, hipper, and has a spin on the modern techniques of cooking. When I’m not working, I tend to go to places where I can wear a jacket, jeans and cool sneakers. That’s what we want to offer our customers.  I wanted to use the Delmonico’s brand and the long-standing history we have so people know they’re going to get a good meal and a good experience.

How does it relate to the original, iconic location?
Delmonico’s is not your father’s steak house. Our goal was to recreate the downtown classics in a chic, modern way uptown. You’ll notice our light fixtures are transcendent of a historic steakhouse however paired with modern placard wood, gold painted accents, and deep red upholstery, We’ve collided both the old and new world. As far as food, you’ll find many of our signature dishes invented at Delmonico’s on our menu at Delmonico’s Kitchen, but with an updated twist. For example, our classic Eggs Benedict is transformed with the addition of a crab cake, quail egg and d’espelette hollandaise. We also took some dishes that were invented at Delmonico’s but never made the menu downtown and put a modern twist on them. One of my personal favorites is the Pan Roasted Gianone Chicken Marengo. We’ve added shrimp and hen egg to the recipe for a unique collision of flavors.

I hear you want to expand worldwide, what brought this on?
Working in the Financial District for 15 years, I have met many notable, influential and inspiring people. The Delmonico’s brand is so well known that no matter where you go out to eat, there is always a connection to the restaurant’s iconic history. I remember walking into a butcher shop about 10 years ago and seeing a Delmonico’s rib chop. I asked the butcher where it came from and he said an iconic restaurant. The sense of pride I had at that moment gave me the inspiration and desire to build and expand upon such an already powerful brand. New York has nearly 47 million foreign and American tourists visit each year. Everyone wants to experience all the wonders of the city from music to arts to cuisine. Expanding Delmonico’s worldwide would allow patrons to experience a piece of culinary history as well as New York and American history. 

What areas do you want to open Delmonico’s in first? Why?
We want to start opening Delmonico’s Kitchen locations in larger domestic cities such as Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. We want to keep the integrity and history of the restaurant, so we plan to keep control of the brand and hope to partner with larger brands and hotels for support.

Will you keep the signature items on the menu?
We will absolutely continue to preserve Delmonico’s history by keeping some of our signature items on the menu.  Delmonico’s wouldn’t be Delmonico’s without the Delmonico Steak, Lobster Newburg or Baked Alaska.

What makes Delmonico’s so special?
Delmonico’s is a family owned and operated business. Some of our waiters have been with us since before I was born. Everyone who is part of the original Delmonico’s has a sense of pride and passion for the restaurant and that’s something we don’t see too often these days. Every day that I go to work, I’m keeping a piece of history alive. 

How did the downtown Delmonico’s weather the storm?
Delmonico’s felt the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. The lower level of the restaurant suffered from flooding. A couple of our private dining rooms were flooded and caused equipment to move around. We immediately hired a crew and even though we didn’t have power for days after Sandy hit, the crew and myself were working with a generator to ensure we would be able to get the restaurant open as soon as possible. We opened our main dining room and bar on November 9 and we are almost complete with the re-build of our lower level.

Opening Across NYC: Four Steakhouses

It’s not exactly rigorous science, but the launching of new steakhouses must say something positive about the state of the economy. The beneficiaries are outside of downtown, in the natural habitats of expense accounts and the people who fund them. On Friday, the Arlington Club will make a big splash on a Lexington Avenue corner. The space has housed UES demographics as reliable as a Republican club and a skating rink, and this clubby steak palace fits right in with the pedigree. Arched ceilings and skylights make for dramatic overheads. Earth-toned accents and vintage black and whites amplify the “club” in the name. Fusion pros Tao have joined forces with Laurent Tourondel for the steakhouse menu. There will be red meat, of course, highlighted by a signature côte de boeuf dry-aged for four weeks. If you find yourself with a sexy cardiologist to impress, you can opt for creative sushi, like peekytoe crab with mango and curry-lemongrass.

While the original Delmonico’s dusts off from Sandy, midtown welcomes a spin-off 175 years in the making. Delmonico’s Kitchen combines the heritage of the original with up-to-date vibes. Candlelit tables, red leather banquettes, and a long marble bar anchor the scene. The menu stands ready for the 21st century, employing organic and local ingredients, and freshening up signatures like lobster Newburg and baked Alaska. Perilously large and juicy steaks justify the legends. If you’re not in the mood for beef, rest assured they know their way around a plate of eggs Benedict. They invented it.

Brasserie fare is the focus of the newest version of The Smith, holding down prime (pun intended) real estate across from Lincoln Center. Unlike its two siblings, uptown has an expanded steak program, with filet mignon, NY strip, and prime rib among the offerings. The interior is McNally-esque, crossing a French café with homegrown industrial chic. White tile, blackened steel, and a zinc bar bump the atmosphere. An elaborate drinks program breaks things down into muddlers, fancy cocktails, and long pours, ensuring you’ll never sit through Le Nozze di Figaro sober again. (Although if for some reason you want to, they also have low-alcohol pre-theater mixes.)

The latest from John DeLucie of Crown and The Lion fame is the reboot of a classic ’20s speakeasy. “Gay” and “Nineties” are gone from the name, leaving just a stripped-down Bill’s. The historical interior is likewise absent, although the look remains eclectic, littered with artwork and the odd deer head and captain’s wheel. White tablecloths are laid out for a chophouse menu. A raw bar starts things off, running from oysters and stone crab claws to California golden osetra. Racks of lamb, rib-eyes, and 35-day prime porterhouses follow. There’s even a Delmonico, in case you can’t make it across town for the original.

Steak is back. We’ll never eat bánh mì again.