Patsy’s Italian Restaurant has been serving up a solid menu of Southern Italian fare in New York City’s Theater District since 1944. Not much has changed in 75 years of business; it remains a family-owned and operated establishment, and the kitchen has seen just three chefs at the helm: founder Pasquale “Patsy” Scognamillo, his son Joe Scognamillo, and Joe’s son Sal Scognamillo, who’s been running the kitchen for more than 30 years.

Patsy’s authentic Neapolitan cuisine continues to attract a varied clientele which includes longtime regulars, Italian food fans, tourists and celebrities. The restaurant has served a number of high-profile patrons, including Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Jerry Seinfeld, Tom Hanks, and, most famously, Frank Sinatra. At its Diamond Gala last month, Patsy’s held a dedication ceremony naming the upstairs dining room where Sinatra held court in the Frank Sinatra Room.

I had the opportunity to chat with Sal Scognamillo, chef and owner of Patsy’s Italian Restaurant, about his favorite dishes, what he sees for the future of the restaurant and more.

Abigail Abesamis: What has changed in 75 years of business? What has stayed the same?

Sal Scognamillo: Well you know, it’s really the same essence of what my grandparents started. It’s just a simple thing to thank people that [have] walked through the door and decided to eat with you and to make sure they are happy because in a city with 20,000 restaurants you have to do that.

As far as changing has gone, I think that the secret with us is to stay the same as what we were. Just simple, old-fashioned Italian stick-to-your-ribs kind of food and someone described it best as “we’re the little restaurant that went to Broadway and became a star.”

What’s great is that we even buy from some of the same suppliers. I’m the grandson of Patsy, and I’m dealing with some of the grandchildren of the same suppliers that we’ve been using all these years. It’s a family-run restaurant, always has been and always will be, and someone from the family is always here to keep an eye on things.

Abesamis: What’s your favorite dish at the restaurant, and why?

Scognamillo: That’s a tough one. I just love pasta so my favorite would be the rigatoni Sorrentino that’s baked with rigatoni pasta mixed with ricotta, tomato, basil, and then you put melted mozzarella and Parmesan on top. When I’m in the mood for garlic, I like the linguini marechiare, which is linguini in a pink clam sauce that has tomato in it. It roughly translates to “cloudy sea,” [and] I love the way that fish makes a great sauce.

Abesamis: What is your vision for the future of the restaurant?

Scognamillo: Always making sure we do the best job that we can, whether it’s someone coming here for the first time or who’s been coming here since before I was born. The greatest compliment I’ve ever received was from a gentleman who’s been coming here since before I was born. When he walked in I said, “I hope you enjoy your dinner tonight,” and he said, “I know what the food is going to taste like before I come here, that’s why I come back.”

Abesamis: What has been the secret to staying in business for 75 years?

Scognamillo: I think the most important thing is to be consistent and to not try to be something that you’re not. We’ve always been a Southern Italian red-sauce restaurant, and we’re proud of it. We stick to what we know and we try and do what we know the best that we can. We’ve also been fortunate to have two cookbooks published featuring our family’s recipes. The first edition features stories from our most famous customer, Frank Sinatra, with a foreword from his daughter Nancy and another with a forward from Ben Stiller. Frank Sinatra loved the restaurant and told all of his friends about it, and there’s no greater PR person than him.