Daily Archives: November 13, 2011

Sapori D’ischia: 5515 37th Ave Woodside, NY

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About 6 months ago I saw an article in NY Magazine about eating out in Queens and I noticed that S’apori D’ischia was right near Gabriel’s place. It was described as the original Eataly- a market by day that transforms into an intimate restaurant at night. It sounded appealing, but expensive and I wondered if we’d ever go. A few months later, when we saw a $29 deal online that was good for an appetizer, 2 entrees and a dessert, we grabbed it.

We made a reservation and headed over last night. Walking through an industrial section of Queens, we wondered where exactly we were going, and what it would be like. Just when we thought there was no way there was a restaurant nearby, we turned a corner and found an adorable entrance leading into a candlelit, romantic establishment. With just a few tables taken, we were told we could choose any of the tables for 2 that were available. We picked one near the keyboard- which was soon brought to life by a man softly singing standards and accompanying himself.

We each ordered a glass of wine and started noshing on the delicious bread, olives and olive oil that was brought over for us. When asked if we wanted flat or sparkling water, we chose flat- having no idea that we’d be charged $4 for it. I recently read a bunch of reviews on Yelp and found that a lot of other people had the same unwelcome surprise on their check and think it would behoove the waiter to actually mention this when you order it. Apparently, tap water is not an option here. Huh? Anyway, when we complained about it, they did remove the charge for our bill and also brought out a plaque with the restaurant’s ’10 commandments’ on it. One of the ‘commandments’ was no tap water. Well, that’s all fine and good if you actually INFORM your customers of that, but to show this after the fact is not so cool. Anyway, as I said, once they removed the charge from our bill we were appeased.

We ordered the grilled baby octopus to start with and it was brought out in a cute, little flower-pot-looking-vessel. Delicious. The octopus was crisp on the edges, slightly smokey, with beans and herbs in a savory sauce that was excellent on the bread we hadn’t already finished. For my entree, I ordered the spinach ricotta lasagna which, albeit a tiny portion, was superb. Incredibly fresh, homemade noodles with a light, cheesy filling all served in a delicious tomato sauce. Gabriel got the short ribs over whipped potatoes which was incredible- tender, not at all fatty, and SO full of rich flavor. Both entrees were definitely on the small side- but I would always prefer small, high-quality meals as opposed to huge plates of decent food. This way, you finish your meal feeling satisfied but not like you are about to pop.

Our dessert choices were rather limited. All we were offered was sorbet, gelato or the nutella banana- which we chose. It was just a sliced banana on top of some nutella, some caramelized crunchies on top and a scoop of vanilla gelato. Boring, but tasty nonetheless.

Overall, this meal was a lovely experience. I enjoyed the feeling of being somewhere that only insiders know about, off the beaten path. By the time we left, the place was totally full of people who seemed to be regulars. I thought the food was some of the best authentic Italian I’ve had in a really sweet, romantic setting. We don’t go out to Queens that often, but when we do I’d be happy to make a return visit, and I’d be curious to see what the daytime market is like.

Guantanamera: 939 8th Ave, NY, NY

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After attending a movie screening in Midtown West, Gabriel and I found ourselves turning to GrouponNow to find a local deal for dinner. There weren’t a ton of options coming up, so when we found a $20 for $40 to Guantanamera (a Cuban restaurant with pretty good ratings) we  headed over. We skimmed over the menu outside, peaked inside at the dimly lit bar and the man hand-rolling cigars in the window, and decided we were intrigued enough to check it out.

The hostess asked if we had reservations, which we didn’t. She told us that it would be about a 20 minute wait so we decided to sit at the bar to have a drink. Just three minutes later we were told that a table opened up downstairs for us. Great! As we headed down into the cozy, candlelit cellar, I was relieved to hear  that the loud music and competing voices trying to hear each other over it from upstairs was left behind.

Water and menus were brought over immediately and our drink orders were taken. With red and white sangria as options, I decided to try the white which I’d never ordered before. The waiter described it as lighter and sweeter than the red and told me that If I didn’t like it, I could switch. I DID like it! It wasn’t full of fruit chunks like I usually see it, but it was fruity and refreshing without being too strong.

For our meal, we decided on an order of Paella, a side of tostones with garlic sauce, a side order of braised spinach and the empanadas appetizer. The Paella was wonderful and had tons of great stuff in it- sausage, chicken, lobster tail (one tiny piece), shrimp, calamari, peas, clams, mussels, oh my! It was plenty for the two of us to share, and with the app and the 2 sides made for a really nice meal. The tostones, though not as awesome as they are at Pio Pio (https://bigforkinmouth.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/pio-pio-1746-1st-ave-new-york-ny/) were very tasty and crispy and came with a wonderfully garlic-y dipping sauce. The spinach was also deliciously full of garlic and the perfect green accompaniment to a very starch-heavy meal. The empanadas were ok- not really noteworthy and we both preferred the chicken one to the beef.

For dessert we shared the Tres Leches cake and it did not disappoint. Moist and milky, just like it should be, it was clear why this is one of their most popular desserts.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Guantanamera if you want to try Cuban food in a fun setting. I would definitely urge you to make a reservation- when we left it was a total mob scene and jut trying to get out was a challenge. If like us, you don’t want to shout to hear each other, ask to be seated downstairs. Enjoy!