Since I am reminiscing about great old Sacramento landmarks that have passed into the mists of time, I must take a few minutes to recognize the old Palomino Room. I grew up in that place. It was a classic, old school steakhouse, back before the term "steakhouse" indicated that you were about to fork over $45 for a Porterhouse with no salad, no spud, no dessert, no nuthin'. The Palomino Room was first class. When I knew it best it was run by the Borowski brothers, Ray and Harry, both great guys who you just wanted to sit down with and have a few beers. The brains of the outfit was Ray's wife, Stella, and she made sure that the ship was run tight.
The Palomino Room, in the days that I knew it, was dark with wormwood walls and a wagon-wheel chandelier over the piano bar. Steaks and taters were the fare.
The one who inspired me the most though was their chef, Nick Jukich. Nick's brother fought on Tito's side in Yugoslavia. Nick didn't. His brother became a general, or something like, Nick became a cook in a steakhouse. Oh, but what a cook! The steaks at the Palomino had a distinctive flavor – it was Nick's secret. And it was great. First, it may go without saying, he was downright finicky about the quality of meat he served. Secondly, he seasoned with salt, and a lot of it. Finally, there was the oil. Next to the grill he kept a cup of oil that he prepared before service every night. It was regular grade olive oil infused with a healthy portion of garlic. He kept a pastry brush in it, and swabbed every steak with it before he put it down. Simple though it was, it was amazing. I think that Nick may have been the one who really made me want to grow up to be a chef. I am sure that he is long gone now, but I would pay money to have a nice long visit with him today.
In later years the place was taken over by David and Freddy, the sons of the original owners, and they did their best to update the ambience and bring the restaurant into the twentieth century. It was very nice, but it wasn't my beloved old Palomino Room any more. The menu went the direction of light, modern Italian, but it wasn't Nick's kitchen any more.
It's been said that what goes around comes around. I really hope that someplace like the Palomino Room comes around again soon. I am getting hungry.