Katie Altman views Smitty’s Italian Steakhouse as a place where diners can enjoy the best of all worlds.
There’s a galaxy of entrees, with steaks, veal and chicken Parmigana, and bourbon glazed salmon along the most popular ones. Bring a date, or a group, and the menu will surely have something that appeals to everyone.
Besides meat cutlets, pasta, and seafood offerings, Smitty’s also offers burgers and sandwiches, including popular choices such as the tenderloin and stromboli.
And finally, diners can enjoy an unrushed lunch or dinner atmosphere, with well-used hardwood floors and intimate lighting crafted for relaxation and good times. Patio seating — a guest favorite — is available when the weather cooperates.
It’s been a winning formula for Smitty’s, which until 2010 was only a tavern but has since become a staple of the West Franklin Street restaurant scene. In earlier eras, the building’s uses included a furniture store.
Altman moved to Evansville seven years ago from her native Delaware, and she’s been the dining room manager at Smitty’s since August. She’s enjoyed the city and getting to know familiar faces that come through her doors.
Regulars at Smitty’s enjoy the variety of dishes as well as the seemingly endless number of entrée-and-side combinations. Those choices epitomize the “Italian Steakhouse” name.
“With our steak entrées and other entrees, we can do sides of spaghetti and fettuccine,” Altman says. “I’ve never seen a place that does things like that.”
Ribeye steaks also are a top seller, and Smitty’s serves up a mean porterhouse. Seafood selections are customer favorites, especially during Lent. For house specialties, such as the veal and chicken Parmigana, Altman says it’s all about the preparation.
“With the chicken parm, you know how marinara can be too sweet or too acidic sometimes? I think ours is just perfect, and it’s right in the middle,” she says. “Maybe it’s the portion size, too, but people love the chicken parm.”
Smitty’s is part of a trio of West Franklin eateries owned by the brother tandem of Jim and Jerry Chandler. Gerst Bavarian Haus and Sportsman’s Grille and Billiards round out the portfolio. Romie Kimbrell is the executive chef at Smitty’s as well as at Gerst, which sits across the street.
Though under the same ownership, the restaurants have vastly different menus and flair.
“When people come and work here, the huge misconception is they think that it will be the same because it’s the same owners, but it’s different places,” Altman says. “Gerst is a lot more fast-paced At Smitty’s, people come to relax and take their time. It’s just way different.”
COVID-19 was brutal for the restaurant industry, but Altman says Smitty’s is hitting its stride again. She explains that although quality control is challenging when staff turnover is high, hiring has gotten somewhat easier recently.
Business also has ticked back up for Smitty’s party space, which is next to its main dining room and available for private gatherings.
Good advice for anyone visiting Smitty’s is to come hungry. The main menu doesn’t always tell the full story, Altman says: Sometimes, appetizer options are available but aren’t listed. If you’re in the mood for fried pickles or fried mushrooms, for example, ask your server.
There’s a full bar with drink specials that vary. A popular choice is the mimosa flights on Sundays.
As for desserts, try the tiramisu, bread pudding with praline sauce, or Italian cream cake.
Smitty’s, Altman says, is a place where the house needs to keep an ample supply of to-go boxes in stock. She and her staff hand them out regularly and are quick to remind diners about the value of leftovers.
“You have no idea,” she says with a laugh. “I mean, nine times out of 10, when I set the entrée down, people are like, oh my gosh! And immediately they say, ‘I’ll take the box.’”
SMITTEN WITH SMITTY’S Smittysevansville.com