A Waiter Works His Way to the TopCover Story Features
December 28, 2014
Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
For Wolfgang Zwiener, his love affair with food is a committed one. Transforming and ever-growing, it stands strong, evolving and perpetuating with the times. Now a full-time New Yorker and legendary owner of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, Zwiener, a German native, arrived in the Big Apple in 1960 — with possessions in hand and a completed three-year waiter apprenticeship under his belt. He initially migrated to the East Coast to spend time with his aunt and uncle, and soon landed a stint at Luchow’s on East 14th St. When that had run its course, Zwiener took a job as a waiter at Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn, where he stayed for 40 years, and was promoted to headwaiter in 1968. Over the course of four decades, Zwiener got married and put his two sons, Steven and Peter, through college. On the verge of retirement, Zwiener had plans to settle in Florida, but son Peter had higher aspirations — his father’s time in New York City’s bustling restaurant biz was not over yet. Peter encouraged Zwiener to go for the big time. In just what aspect, exactly? The “big time” meant opening the doors to his own restaurant — more specifically a steak house — in Manhattan.
On Feb. 26, 2004, Zwiener, who saw promise in his son’s idea, opened Wolfgang’s Steakhouse at 4 Park Ave., making certain that it not be an exact replica of the top-rated Peter Luger Steak House.
Now, 10 years later, Zwiener has carved out his own niche with steak houses across the country, including Beverly Hills and Miami, in addition to Tokyo, Japan, bearing his name.
“Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is extremely popular in Roppongi, Japan. People make reservations at least two months in advance,” says Zwiener.
For Zwiener, knowing the ins and outs of the restaurant business has its advantages. He quickly was able to build a solid reputation with his clientele, thanks to premier service and an ability to meet high standards.
Zwiener hand-selects the cuts of meat served at his restaurants, choosing USDA Prime Grade Black Angus Beef for its exceptional marbling, tenderness, flavor and texture.
“There are so many steak houses out there, but we offer the best dry-aged steaks in the business,” says 75-year-old Zwiener.
“The entire four-week (dry-aging) process takes place in a special aging room on site. Already tasty as is, the only seasoning added to the steaks is a sprinkle of salt before it’s broiled at 1,600 degrees.”
The owner reveals that Porterhouse Steak ($109.95 for two) is his choice cut — clearly because there’s a larger strip steak portion and an exquisite piece of fillet in one slab. Prime New York Sirloin ($57.95) and Rib Eye Steak ($57.95) also top the list. The trademark Wolfgang steak is served tender, juicy and sizzling hot with a beautifully caramelized crust.
Yet, the superb steaks aren’t the only things to capture diners’ attention. Other mouthwatering selections include sushi-grade tuna, veal, lamb, salmon and more. Also, make room for Wolfgang’s classic side offerings, including Creamed Spinach ($11.95), German Potatoes ($15.95) and Mashed Potatoes ($11.95), to name a few. They are wonderful additions to a meal, along with unforgettable appetizers such as Sizzling Canadian Bacon ($6.95, extra thick, by the slice), Wolfgang’s Salad ($18.95) and Seafood Cocktail Platter ($29.95) with jumbo shrimp, jumbo lump crabmeat and lobster. Ask any loyal patron, and they’ll tell you that these starters are the perfect prelude to any main course. For dessert? Of course, Junior’s N.Y. Cheesecake ($9.95) is an absolute can’t-miss.
Executive chef Diego Pacuruco is the man behind the magic, and lives up to Wolfgang’s award-winning standards.
“I ate a lot of steak when I worked at Peter Luger,” Zwiener says. “I like my steak very rare — in fact, very close to raw, and Diego does a fantastic job. He and the rest of the kitchen staff produce excellent results.
“I love Hawaii, and Waikiki is the perfect location for Wolfgang’s Steak House,” he notes of the restaurant’s location in Royal Hawaiian Center.
“Waikiki is an international playground, attracting people from all around the world, and I’m happy that Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is a universal attraction,” Zwiener says with a smile.
Royal Hawaiian Center
2301 Kalakaua Ave.
Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m.
Weekend Brunch: Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.