Demise of the classic steakhouse continues as Omaha loses with Piccolo Pete’s closing

Piccolo Pete's
Piccolo Pete’s

The clock struck midnight. And another classic steak house vanished off Omaha’s restaurant map. Piccolo Pete’s closed its doors after nearly 82 years of serving some of the best steaks in the country.

Piccolo’s was the oldest of the five classic steakhouses remaining in Omaha. The remaining classic steakhouses are: Gorat’s, Anthony’s, Cascio’s and Johnny’s Cafe.

Piccolo’s suffered the problem many classic restaurants have – diners dwindled due to city growth and the onslaught of newer, more modern competition. As Omaha has moved westward and grown younger, diners decreased. Classic steakhouses seem to be considered something out of the 1950s and ‘60s.

Piccolo Pete's
Diners enjoying a meal at Piccolo’s

People once dressed up to have a steak dinner at Piccolos. Warren Buffett is probably the last to do it. Yes, that Warren Buffet. The billionaire has been a longtime customer at Piccolo Pete’s. He split time between Piccolo’s and Gorat’s.

Omaha once had 20-30 classic steakhouses. Omaha was once Ground Zero for cattle. The Omaha Stockyards drew farmers and ranchers from several states to sell their cattle. As a result, Omaha’s steak scene was strong.

Piccolo Pete's
Piccolo’s was in business for more than eight decades

It was common for steakhouses to have 400-500 diners on any given evening. Men in suits. Women in dresses. People waited in lines for a long time, just to have one of Omaha’s best steaks.

But, times change. Tastes change. Time apparently caught up with Piccolo Pete’s.

We wanted to say good-bye, so Lisa, our daughter Steph and I enjoyed our last dinner at Pete’s. I struggled on what to have. I loved their prime rib, and that’s all I’ve had there. Should I finally have a steak? But, if I do, I’ll miss the prime rib. What to do?

Piccolo Pete's
Our solution to steak or prime rib. Steph and I split our entrees.

The three of us enjoyed our dinner. We’ve had a few family dinners there. My daughters (Steph and Mallory) and I ate there once as part of a classic steakhouse tour hosted by Omaha Culinary Tours. This dinner was a bit melancholy, knowing it was the last time we’d enjoy dinner there.

Scott Sheehan, who was scheduled to become the third generation owner in 2016, before the announcement was made to close. Scott has created a link to the family legacy with his food truck, Anthony Piccolo’s Mobile Venue. He uses some of the family’s locally-famous recipes, such as a prime rib sandwich. The food truck will continue as a business.

Besides great food, Piccolo’s was known for its crystal ball. It hung above the old dance floor. The restaurant had live music and dancing during the early years. The current “disco” ball is third generation. The first crystal ball was broken during a cleaning accident. The second one was replaced after about 25 years of service.

Piccolo Pete's
The famous “disco” ball

As the last steak was served and the doors closed, Piccolo Pete’s fades into Omaha history. However, it will remain in the hearts and minds of many Omahans.