Porterhouse. Rib Eye. Filet Mignon. Are you hungry yet? From city-style hot spots to down-home dining rooms, here are eleven of the Valley’s best places to find the beef
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Photograph courtesy of De La Vergne Steakhouse
De La Vergne Steakhouse
4905 Rte. 44, Amenia
Dutchess County businessman Kevin Rooney opened De La Vergne in the summer of 2006, offering a New American menu that appealed mostly to weekenders and the wealthy few. “The local people felt intimidated,” Rooney says. “I’m from Amenia and I wanted it to be a place where people from all walks of life would feel comfortable.” What to do? “Everyone said, ‘We’re dying for a place that has normal, simple food,’ ” Rooney reports. So he closed down for 10 months, hired new executive chef Vincent Sorrentino, retooled the kitchen with hotter stoves, and reopened on December 30th as a steakhouse.
Sorrentino, another Dutchess County native, created a new menu inspired by Manhattan steakeries. “It was sort of froufrou fine dining before,” says the CIA grad, who has worked alongside such luminaries as Waldy Malouf and David Bouley, so he knows froufrou when he sees it.
As for the beef: It’s Certified Angus, a well-marbled grade that Sorrentino says falls between Prime and Choice. The steaks, topped with garlic-chive compound butter, come with a salad and a few onion rings. Sides are a la carte, reasonably priced from $1.95 for a baked potato to $3.95 for the likes of penne pasta with aged cheddar and truffle oil.
“Some steakhouses have great steaks and mediocre everything else,” Sorrentino remarks. “My challenge is to make sure the other dishes are spectacular, too.” One of the fancier ones — pan seared sea scallops with beurre blanc, mashed potatoes, and spinach — sounds like a seafood lover’s version of a classic steak ensemble. “Well, yes,” Sorrentino agrees. “Only it’s a lot more elegant.” A few down-home dishes like roast chicken and meatloaf round out the menu. Desserts — cheesecake, key lime, pecan pie and such — are made in-house or come from Best Creations in Millbrook.
The rustic setting remains unchanged. Two dining rooms and an eat-in bar have dark floors made of wood that Rooney (whose day job is in construction and restoration) reclaimed from the inside of an old silo; booths are made from the silo’s weathered exterior. There’s a big stone fireplace and a horsey theme to reflect Amenia’s horse-country location. “I wanted it to be like an Irish pub, where everybody gathers,” Rooney says. “Now people hang out in the bar... It’s a really good mix. It’s really clicked.”
Crowd pleaser: “People are saying they’ve had the best steak of their life here. I’m not making this up,” Sorrentino says.
Special appeal: “Tell everyone it’s changed. It’s more warm and welcoming — cozy, upbeat, happy. People were scared away, and we want them to try us again.”
The bottom line: From $16.95 for the T-bone to $39 for the porterhouse for two.
► Next up: Skytop Steakhouse & Brewing Co.