Making Music for Piccolo Pete’s

Like any city, Omaha, Nebraska, is filled with old and new. The city’s more historic institutions largely fall east of 72nd Street and aren’t always a top-of-mind consideration for young families who live on the outskirts of Douglas County.

And in some ways, I like that. There’s something special about dining at one of your favorite restaurants to celebrate a birthday or big achievement, one that’s not a routine go-to restaurant where the experience is merely an afterthought.

You may not travel there often; but when you do, good news is most certainly the reason why.

In our family, it was that way with Mr. C’s on North 30th Street. We ventured to the eclectic steakhouse for years, many times for my December 6 birthday. The year-round Christmas decor that covered every wall could not be found anywhere else in Omaha. And that’s what made it special.

When Mr. C’s closed its doors in September 2007, a 55-year-old Omaha landmark was now gone for good.

And our family was left looking for a new Omaha eatery to celebrate my birthday and other special occasions.

I can’t remember who suggested Piccolo Pete’s near 20th and Martha Streets, but bless them. We’ve had many family dinners at Piccolo Pete’s since then, and even celebrated Matt’s 30th birthday there back in February.

The restaurant, obviously, holds a special place in our hearts and is naturally associated with good memories. But the food? The food is all the more reason we keep coming back. These east Omaha steakhouses are slowly disappearing, and with them goes an unmistakable flavor that, after nearly thirty-three years, I’ve been unable to find anywhere else.

Maybe it’s the signature recipes and flavorings. Maybe it’s the cooks in the kitchen, who pass secret techniques down to one another. Or maybe it’s all in my head (and stomach). Regardless of the reason, dining at Piccolo Pete’s warms my heart in ways no West Omaha eatery ever could.

Sarah Baker Hansen agrees.

In her new book, The Insider’s Guide to Omaha and Lincoln, Sarah writes: “Piccolo’s has always had a close place in this writer’s heart. It’s been around since 1933 and has one of the most memorable neon signs in the city out front: a festive man playing a piccolo. Piccolo’s is a huge, open space with lots of tables and lots of arched mirrors and chandeliers. Its mostacciolo and meatballs is fantastic, the steaks are big and juicy, and the beef stroganoff is a must try if you’re into that decidedly old-school menu item.”

Piccolo’s steaks and mostacciolo (when served with their signature red sauce) makes one of the most simple yet savory meals one could ask for from an Omaha steakhouse any time of year. Matt and I were reminded of that unmistakable combination last week when we returned to Piccolo’s for an Omaha Restaurant Week preview dinner.

Piccolo’s is one of more than thirty Omaha eateries offering special menu prices September 16-25, designed to attract new audiences to some old favorites. It’s gratifying to see Piccolo’s on the list, alongside some of the city’s newer, more urban restaurants.

The combination of restaurants reminds me of fashion, to be honest. I’m a sucker for new pieces as much as the next girl. But there’s something quite dynamic (at times, exquisite) about pairing those pieces with a vintage accessory. The splash of vintage makes everything look (and in this case, taste) even better.

A side note: I had fully intended to take a few photos of our delicious Piccolo Pete’s meal on September 9. Yet I was so enamored by the food in front of us (shrimp cocktail, New York Strip, salad, pasta, baked potato, with cheesecake for dessert) that I forgot to even pull my camera from my bag. It’s that good.

2 thoughts on “Making Music for Piccolo Pete’s

  1. I don’t live in Omaha anylonger, haven’t now for going on 35 yrs, but when I was about 11yo my mom & dad took me and 1 older brother & our younger brother to Piccolo Pete’s for dinner, they had dancing also. This was quite the treat as we NEVER went out to dinner before except to an aunt’s or Grandma’s house. We were so impressed with it as children & my dad danced with me, I was thrilled. I will always have that wonderful memory with me. My other 2 fav’s were Mr. C’s & Mama Caniglia’s, I still do get the Mr. C’s salad dressing on line, it is my favorite Italian dressing.

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