The Family Behind Delmonico's Has Always Been Focused On Food

The best steakhouses in America include some heavy hitters: Indianapolis' famed St. Elmo's Steak House, Las Vegas' decadent Golden Steer, and Baton Rouge's down-to-earth Doe's Eat Place. But one establishment that isn't named doesn't need to appear on any list. Why? For all the accolades heaped onto other steakhouses, nothing can compare to having your name mentioned on restaurant menus across the nation (via Taste Atlas).

The famed restaurant is New York's Delmonico's, an establishment renowned for its Delmonico cuts of steak. Now, what exactly constitutes Delmonico steak is up for debate, as detailed by The Daily Meal, but it generally means a high-quality, well-marbled, thick cut of beef. 

Yet Delmonico's is so much more than slabs of meat. It is a New York institution, one that evolved from a small café and pastry shop established in 1827 by Swiss-born brothers Giovanni and Pietro Del-Monico that has continued business to this day (per Steak Perfection).

A culinary evolution

The brothers — who would anglicize their names to John and Peter Delmonico — were no neophytes in the culinary trade. As Joe O'Connell at Steak Perfection observes, Giovanni, after a career as a ship captain, was an importer of wine in New York, and Pietro was a confectioner and pastry chef in Berne, Switzerland. The brothers decided to pool their savings and open a business in the United States.

Their pastry shop, which served customers bonbons, bavaroises, coffee, wine, and spirits, was both a novelty and a success. Wealthy New Yorkers and tourists found the shop a refined place of respite amid the busy American metropolis. The business was such a hit, in fact, that the brothers rented a room next door, hired French chefs to build out an eatery, and brought in their nephew Lorenzo to lead the new venture (per

Much like their original establishment, Delmonico's "restaurant Francais" was a smashing success, advancing not only New York City's dining culture but also paving the way for American restaurants to improve hospitality and service throughout the country. Literary New York explains Delmonico's entertained well-heeled locals, served rich foreigners visiting town, and hosted receptions for luminaries such as Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.

An American dining legacy

Though their original restaurant burned down in 1835 in a massive fire, the brothers relocated to a grander location, which remains the present incarnation of Delmonico's. Imported wines and dishes like artichokes barigoule, wild hare, squab, salmon, eggplant, and mackerel have been served. In the 1850s, notes Cooks Info, the brothers added the now-famous steak served with broiled mashed potatoes and topped with cheese and breadcrumbs made by hand.

In addition to steak, Delmonico's is known for other dishes, according to Gothamist, such as Chicken a la Keene, Lobster Newburg, Baked Alaska, and Eggs Benedict.

Prohibition brought an end to the original Delmonico's, but the famed Williams street address has housed three different iterations (all called Delmonico's but none associated with the original proprietors). The name, notes Restaurant-ing through History, has been immortalized across the nation with nominal copycats in locations such as Florida, Washington, and California, further cementing the family's food legacy from coast to coast.