Readers have been clamoring for information on Steak Sinatra, the dish mentioned in a recent post on the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles.
Steak Sinatra was a specialty of Patsy D’Amore’s Villa Capri, a long-gone Hollywood establishment frequented by Frank Sinatra and Rat Pack pals. Below are Sinatra and Nat King Cole at the Villa Capri, in a 1955 photo by Bernie Abrahmson in the IAMLA collection.
A quick web search confirms that Steak Sinatra lives on, and not just in memory. There are numerous (and various) recipes, and photos of it on restaurant plates. In its day, Steak Sinatra was popular enough to go national, as Cobb salad did. Now, like an endangered species, it survives in a handful of isolated refuges. None, as far as I can tell, are in Los Angeles.
One online reviewer rates Steak Sinatra the “best steak EVER.” That refers to the version served at Nunzio’s in suburban Chicago. Photos show that Nunzio’s Steak Sinatra looks like someone dumped a whole can of breadcrumbs on meat.
Basically, Steak Sinatra is steak cut into strips, covered in flour and stir-fried, then served with, yes, Sinatra Sauce. That’s a pan gravy made with red wine. Bread crumbs are noncanonical, as are a number of other ingredients found in online recipes (ketchup, soy sauce, A-1 sauce, black olives, artichoke hearts).
The most authentic Steak Sinatra is presumably that at Johnny Costa’s Ristorante, Palm Springs. The founder worked at the Villa Capri and prepared it for Sinatra himself. It’s that version pictured at the top of this post. The Johnny Costas’ recipe appears on the web, and there’s a handy video of Vince Costa showing how to prepare it.
Johnny Costa’s Steak Sinatra
Cut NY steak into strips. Thick strips will be rare; thin will be well done. Coat pan in extra virgin olive oil. Heat. Coat steak in ½ cup flour. Sear until brown. Add 1 tsp minced garlic, shallots, parsley, salt, & pepper, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, & ½ red bell pepper. Add ½ cup red wine once shallots & garlic have browned. Burn off alcohol. Add ¼ cup beef stock/bouillon & 2 tbsp tomato paste/concentrate. Reduce stock & paste into gravy. Serve w/ veggies or pasta.
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