Just a few steps down, in the space that used to be the commissary of Kaufman Astoria Studios, is Sac’s Place. One could say—it’s a new and exciting Italian restaurant—with a 35-year history. Or hundreds of years of history if you begin counting when the family started honing their cooking skills in Italy many years ago.
Just across the street is the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. The money for that was made possible by Tony Bennett and his wife Susan, both devoted patrons of Sac’s Place. And, let’s face it, Tony knew his way around a bowl of great pasta.
When a couple of good friends and I arrived at Sac’s Place on a recent Sunday afternoon, we were greeted at the bar by Domenico (Dom) Sacramone, who along with his brother Anthony, are the driving forces behind this must-visit eatery. The restaurant somehow manages to pull off a homey and spiffy atmosphere at the same time.
They began their Astoria food odyssey in 1989 with Sac’s Pizza, which is still just around the corner. Sac’s Place would move into its present location in September 2019. Dom told us, “Our family is from Orsogna, a small town in the Abruzzo region of Italy, but we were born and raised in Astoria. We grew up in a house of love, laughter, and family dinners cooked by our mother, Maddalena,” explained Dom.
“Staying faithful to the Abruzzo tradition of using simple flavors and the freshest ingredients from the land and sea, our mother passed on the secrets she learned in our Nonna’s kitchen in Abruzzo. Handmade pasta, pizza made with homemade dough, vegetables, and herbs from our garden were the norm. Tomato sauce was made daily.” This family food history continues to form the essence of Sac’s Place today.
FRESH IS BEST
Years before “farm to table” became a buzzword, they began transporting fresh produce from a farm in Pennsylvania—plum tomatoes, salad greens, herbs, and the like. All soft pasta is made in-house. Dry pasta is imported from Italy, as are artichokes for frying, olive oil, and canned tomatoes, which are tasted each year before buying. Like vintage wine—tomatoes vary from year to year.
As we sat and talked with Dom that Sunday afternoon, we had samples of nearly everything on the menu. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first taste of their lobster and crab ravioli in a brandy cream sauce. I looked at Dom and said, I could drink this sauce by the glass. He replied—you’re not the first one to say that!
Meanwhile, I had a bite of my friend’s rigatoni with a simple, fresh tomato sauce (Tony Bennett’s favorite…) and said I thought it was too al dente. She said it was perfect. Then Dom uttered one of the best food lines I’ve ever heard: “When it comes to food, we’re our own best critics.” Indeed!
As we completed our way through the menu, I realized that Sac’s Place is also a story of survival—35 years in the NYC restaurant world. Dom and Anthony have weathered all the ups and downs in that world, but also curve balls such as the COVID lockdown, the recent months-long actor/writer strikes that shut down Kauffman Studios, and continuing changes to the minimum wage laws. But they have persevered and managed to grow and thrive.
During our time at Sac’s, we were vaguely aware of a nearby table of multi-generational family members and their friends. Before we were getting ready to leave, servers appeared at their table and sang “Happy Birthday” to a lovely woman as the staff brought out a beautiful cake.
We later learned it was her 97th birthday. We couldn’t help but think how wonderful it was for her to be surrounded by family and friends at a place like Sac’s Place, just a few steps down—in Astoria, Queens.
For more information about Dom & Anthony Sacramone and Sac’s Place, visit sacsplace.com