If you’ve been in the Valley for any length of time, you’ve mostly likely heard of—if not dined at—a restaurant concept created by the Mastro family. The two brothers—Jeffrey and Mike Mastro—grew up working alongside their father, Dennis, in what was then the family restaurants, Mastro’s Steakhouse and Mastro’s Ocean Club. Jeffrey later went to law school, while Mike continued to work with the restaurants.
After the family sold their original concepts in 2007, the brothers joined together to found Prime Steak Concepts, and a new restaurant empire was born.
Jeffrey took on the role of CEO, Mike took on the role of president, and together they created and opened Dominick’s Steakhouse, Steak 44, Ocean 44, and Steak 48 (Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Charlotte).
We caught up with Jeffrey and Mike to talk restaurants, favorite foods, and what they do when they’re not working.
Let’s talk food and restaurants! You sold the family business—Mastro’s Steakhouse and Mastro’s Ocean Club brands—many years ago, and have since created several new concepts. What drew you to want to stay in the restaurant business?
Jeffrey: There is a small distance, but big difference, between working your life away and your life’s work. My brother and I are grateful that we are squarely on the “life’s work” side of the ledger and enjoying the journey.
Mike: We are fortunate to have the opportunity after selling the Mastro’s brand in 2007 to do what we love for a second time—there is nothing we would rather be doing. It was an easy decision.
How did you come up with the concepts for each new locale?
Mike: Each brand is uniquely its own. Our goal was to create three concepts that did not substitute for each other, but rather complemented each other, so that our guests could dine at Steak 44 on a Tuesday, Ocean 44 on a Friday, and Dominick’s Steakhouse the next week and enjoy three great, different experiences.
And the names?
Jeffrey: Dominick’s Steakhouse is named after our grandfather. It is a special place, and one that was intended to be the only one of its kind.
Mike: Steak 44’s location on 44th Street was a fortunate inspiration for a name that fits the concept, which is a revitalized classic American Steakhouse. Ocean 44 is a completely different feel from Steak 44, and after two years of R&D on the menu, “ocean” was definitely in the name and the 44 ties the personal service and highest-quality food and drinks that our guests have come to expect.
Jeffrey: Steak 48 is a nod to our home state of Arizona being the 48th state in the Union. It is a slightly different version of Steak 44, designed to complement each local market that they’re in. All Steak 48s are outside of Arizona—Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Charlotte.
What do you think sets your restaurants apart from others?
Jeffrey: Three things come to mind. The first is our great staff—each restaurant is alive with a unique personality that makes our guests welcome and comfortable, and our staff trains and works very hard and we have them to thank for that. The second is the physical environment—each place feels very different and fits the neighborhood it is in, from the dramatic high ceilings at Ocean 44 to the residential scale of Steak 44 to the rooftop poolside dining at Dominick’s, you are in a completely different environment depending on which one you choose. The third is the menu—each place has some similarities and a few additions to make it unique.
Ocean 44 especially—the menu is very different from the steakhouses. You could eat at all three and have something completely different.
In addition to the menu items you’d expect to find when you hear “steakhouse” or “seafood,” you have a variety of items, including many unique offerings, on your menus. What inspired that?
Mike: Options is a great word and part of all of our concepts. One of the many things we learned from our previous concepts is that our guests’ expectations are always increasing, and we always want to over-deliver. We offer steak “and”... and the “and” are innovative and interesting items beyond what you would see on a steakhouse or seafood menu. We feel this is considerate and what our guests are looking for today. To continue to improve what we do as we grow, we have an R&D chef whose full-time job is to help us not only come up with great new items that fit our concepts, but to also look for ways to improve our current items; even little tweaks to their presentations, or if a better ingredient comes available, we always want to deliver the best to our guests.
What are your personal top three favorite menu items across all of your restaurants?
Wow! That is the toughest question yet…
Mike: Lobster Escargot appetizer (at Ocean 44 only), Tomahawk Porkchops, and 22 oz. Bone-in Ribeye.
Jeffrey: The Butcher’s Cut (it is not on the menu but our butchers hand-cut a few every day), Chicken Fried Lobster appetizer, and Praline Sweet Potato side dish.
Your restaurants are popular locales for events and fundraisers—especially the rooftop pool area of Dominick’s Steakhouse. How do you give back yourselves?
We are both very involved in all of the giving that we do at our locations. It is something that is part of the fabric of who we are as a family and a family business.
What is one thing you learned about life from working in restaurants? As people, we are best when we are all together, eating and drinking, interacting, enjoying, disagreeing, and celebrating… together.
Any plans for future restaurants? Yes, we are really enjoying what we are doing and we have a great team of people who feel the same way, and we are excited to keep growing at a comfortable pace.
When you’re not working, you’re…
Jeffrey: Enjoying time with my family and usually training for a marathon.
Mike: Spending time with my wife and kids and new grandson, or riding horses.