The Geist of Broadway Review
Piano Accompanies Fine Meals at Pranzo
By Anne Hillerman
For the Journal
Bravo to Pranzo! When, for the first time in my life, I had my leftover
Pranzo’s duck pasta for breakfast, it was almost as good as the night before.
The main thing missing was the sweet piano music of David Geist and the
soothing tree house view from the upstairs dining room. I think the music
makes this good food taste even better. (More on that later.)
My three friends and I knew we were in competent hands from the moment
our first appetizer, polenta with creamy gorgonzola sauce, appeared at the table.
What a treat it was. Golden triangles of grilled polenta surrounded by a
stunning sauce of mushrooms, marsala wine, delicious light cream and melted
gorgonzola cheese. The large white bowlful offered plenty for the four of us to
share. At $9.95, it was a fine value in term of both quality (excellent) and quantity
(more than ample). The same sense of generosity pervaded every dish we tried.
We shared the antipasto misto, ($9.95) a classic Italian starter plate which
featured three different cold meats, an assortment of olives, two kinds of
cheese, pepperoncini and other treats. Fresh sliced baguette with a lovely crust
added to the pleasure.
The staff scurried from table to table but never seemed rushed in dealing
with us. Our waitress didn’t hesitate to give us recommendations, and at the
end of the meal offered to redo our bill to give each of us a separate check. The
staff took our plates to the kitchen, boxed up our leftovers and put each “to
go” container in a white paper bag for easier transport.
We ate in the large upstairs room lined with windows looking out at tree
tops. It’s one of Santa Fe’s loveliest dining spaces, although it can be noisy
when all the tables are full. The room now has a piano and microphone and
former Broadway musician, vocal coach and composer David Geist entertains
here several nights a week. In addition to selections from “Cats”— which he
said he played more than 600 times on Broadway— we heard music from
Stephen Sondheim, George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers played with
passion, relaxed showmanship and a bit of audience participation.
Meanwhile, our dinners arrived, not a second-string performer in the bunch,
everything beautifully presented. The osco buco ($22.95), which our waitress
said is one of Pranzo’s signature dishes, was stellar. The meat, a huge lamb
shank, had been cooked long and slow, until it emerged fall-off-the-bone
tender and full of hearty flavor. It shared the plate— a bowl, actually— with
soft polenta, white beans, slender green beans and shredded carrots, all in a
sauce that combined the natural juices with red wine.
But, in my opinion, another signature dish, mezzaluna con anatra ($18.95),
was even better. This pasta-gone-wild features fat, crescent-shaped noodles
stuffed with creamy mozzarella and pine nuts as the first layer. The pasta dough
was made with red chile, but the result is subtle— something rare in the chile
world. However there’s nothing subtle about the mountain of shredded duck
meat or the sauce with slivers of fresh garlic and a generous sprinkling of fresh
thyme in a shallot-truffle cream base. This is a dish worth saving your calories
Totally different, and also wonderful, was the gnocchi astice ($24.95), an
amazing combination of tender house-made gnocchi— those little Italian
dumplings— in a cream sauce with generous pieces of shelled lobster meat,
smoky bacon, spicy red pepper flakes, garlic, peas and saffron. Everything
works together to create an effect that’s part gourmet, part comfort food. To
say this dish is rich is like saying Venus Williams knows how to play tennis. The
scrumptious veal marsala ($22.95) had a slightly sweet sauce that complimented
the tasty breaded veal. The comforting mashed potatoes were the perfect way
to enjoy the last few spoonfuls.
Diners can add a salad, either an overflowing plate of fresh mixed greens
with roasted pine nuts and red peppers like I had or a Caesar for an additional
$2. Pranzo also features six meal-sized salads, a broad selection of pasta
including some with cream sauces, many of which are available in half portions,
seven kinds of pizzas, some interesting daily specials and a children’s menu.
For dessert, we shared some F.X. O’Reilly ice cream, a scoop of Vietnamese
cinnamon and espresso toffee, both slightly softened. The toffee was great but
the cinnamon was even better ($5.95). O’Reilly is the son of Pranzo’s owner
Michael O’Reilly and knows his way around an ice cream freezer. We also
shared a square of excellent tiramisu ($5.95).
Our dinner for four with two salads and a latte was $129.90 before tax and
If you enjoy Italian food and haven’t been to Pranzo for a while, go. The
meals are memorable and Geist’s music makes the dining experience even more