Tag Archives: italian

Brooklyn Biscuit Tortoni: Born in Brooklyn, based in Florida, available at many fine dining establishments!

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tortoni When the chefs behind Brooklyn Biscuit Tortoni asked me if I would help them out by taste testing a few different versions of their product, I rolled up my sleeves, took a deep breath, and decided that out of the goodness and generosity of my heart, that I would grant them that favor. It is precisely moments like these that remind me of that cliche, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” While there isn’t paper money involved here per se, delicious tastes of dessert are worth way more than dollars as far as I’m concerned.

I grew up in New York, where it was common to see tortoni on just about every pizza place or Italian restaurant menu. The choice was usually tortoni, spumoni, or cannoli, and given the option of dried, candied fruit and nuts in spumoni (yuck) or ricotta cheese filling of a cannoli (Um, ew. Why would I want cheese and carbs for dessert after presumably eating cheese and carbs for dinner?), the choice was always clear to me. Add a single-serve sized paper cup that meant I didn’t have to share, a maraschino cherry and almond cookie crunchies on top and well, who could pass that up?

I didn’t realize until many years later that at some point I stopped seeing these delightful treats on menus. I didn’t even realize how much I missed them until this dessert duo brought it to my attention by offering me a taste of their version of this classic.

The first sample I had was creamy, cold, sweet, and sparked so many memories for me that I simply forgot to slow down and savor each bite. It was gone before I knew it and I was clearly NOT wearing my culinary taste-tester hat that day. I would definitely require another one to be able to give helpful feedback.

The second sample was a different story. I was mentally prepared to take small bites and really let all five senses tune in. The crisp cookie crumbles on top were my favorite part. They are blended throughout the cup giving a slightly granular feel and keeping that almondy flavor consistent from top to bottom. I saved the cherry for last, as I always do with any cherry-topped dessert, and it was a wonderful last juicy bite.

The taste is very similar to ice cream, but more like frozen custard with a slightly eggier quality to it. It’s sort of like someone melted one of those yummy, toasted almond, Good Humor popsicles, re-constituted it, used better quality ingredients, and then perfected that concept in a cup version. It was *almost* the perfect tortoni, but for me, someone who has a serious sweet tooth by the way, it was actually too sweet overall. Now that did not for one second mean that I left even one drop uneaten, it just meant that I actually had something other than a full rave to come back to the creators with.

And so, that brings me to the final version. The chefs tweaked the original recipe that they used by reducing the amount of sugar and the amount of crumbled almond cookies by nearly half. They brought me my third and final sample. The moment of truth. I used a small spoon so as better to slow my bites down and to allow me to savor every delectable taste. Now this is perfection. Creamy, sweet but not-too-sweet, crispy, almondy, cold, and just the right portion size (although I could admittedly eat 2 or 3 of these easily- I really shouldn’t).

This is a memory in a paper cup. A great memory…and now one that can live on in the present instead of only a distant past. Bravo!

You can have your own “creamy, dreamy, taste embrace” too! Find them at Mozzarella Fella, Solorzano, Don Giovanni’s and MANY more restaurants coming soon! Follow their Facebook page to see where they are going to pop up next! https://www.facebook.com/brooklynbiscuittortoni

And if YOU want to carry them in your restaurant, contact the chefs via their website for wholesale information:

http://www.brooklynbiscuittortoni.com/

Sardinia: 5770 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231

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You’d think I was totally setting myself up for disaster when I ended up going to Sardinia for lunch. I was REALLY craving Thai food, so I’d intended to go to my favorite, Isan Thai, not realizing that they are closed on Mondays. I had a limited amount of time on my lunch break, so I decided to try Sardinia even though I really wasn’t feeling like eating Italian food.

When I went in, I was seated right away and the waitress brought me a menu and ice water. I looked over the lunch menu and was happy to see lots of delicious sounding vegetarian and pescatarian options and realized that my Thai craving had quickly disappeared. Most of the choices were around $10, very reasonable for a lovely selection.

I ordered the Grilled Marinated Vegetable Sandwich with a cup of Minestrone soup. When it arrived, it looked and smelled awesome. The fresh baguette was crusty and warm, and filled with artichokes, zucchini and various other lightly roasted veggies with a small amount of excellent olive oil over the top. The Minestrone was basically just a light veggie soup topped with a sprinkle of fresh parmesan.

The whole meal was very satisfying and a great value. I will definitely go back!

 

Cafe Baci: 4001 S. Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, FL

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From the street, Cafe Baci looks like it’s from 1960. The sign as well as the outside of the restaurant is dated and falling apart, and does nothing at all to represent the excellence that happens inside.

We were welcomed very warmly by the hostess and quickly led to our table. We saw right away that the clientele of this establishment is pretty much the over 65 crowd, and we felt slightly out of place and underdressed. The hostess assured us that people come in wearing just-off-the-beach clothes sometimes and that we were totally fine. Our waiter came over with menus and ice water and went over the specials, all of which sounded great. Shortly later, he brought over a basket of foccacia, delicious garlicy/parmesan breadsticks and some herbed olive oil. You see from my picture that we had all dived into those before I remembered to take a photo, and the basket is already partially empty.

This restaurant came very highly recommended by my friend and duo partner Mike (please visit mikesolomusic.com and careyyaruss.com com for more info ) and one of the things he mentioned to me was how accommodating they are to their patron’s requests. Knowing that, I asked if it would be possibly to add some grilled shrimp to the cappellini primavera, to which the waiter happily agreed.

When my entree came out, I was very excited for my first taste. It was loaded with huge, gorgeous, grilled shrimp, tons of fresh vegetables and homemade cappellini with a creamy, tomato sauce. It was seriously delicious, rich and indulgent. I was totally happy with it, even though I was expecting a nice, light pasta dinner and it was definitely on the heavy side. The portion was extremely generous and I happily shared it with Gabriel and my mom and step-father, who all agree that it was super tasty.

For dessert, we decided to order one tiramisu for everyone to share. When it arrived with an old looking strawberry on top, we assumed it must have been made much earlier and was just sitting in the fridge waiting for someone to order it. It was covered in a 2 inch thick layer of whipped cream on top and the espresso soaked cake was kind of overwhelmed by that. The flavor was good and if there had been less whipped cream I think we all would have really enjoyed it, but as it were, I pretty much was the only one who ended up eating it.

Overall, I was very impressed with Cafe Baci and would definitely go back. I would love to see some younger people in there, but unless they update the outside and make it look a big livelier and hipper, I doubt anyone under 40 will be going in anytime soon. With nearly full tables, it seems like their business isn’t suffering because of that, and maybe that’s really the crowd that they are aiming to attract. With it’s rustic, Italian interior, it has a classic feel that’s sure to please an older (and wealthier) clientele. The food is really top quality and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a hearty meal. Enjoy!

La Mela: 167 Mulberry st. New York, NY

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Last Thursday, Gabriel and I threw a going-away party for ourselves. We had an absolute blast doing karaoke and enjoying cocktails with about 35 friends at 2nd on 2nd in the East Village. When the party ended, we found ourselves starving and rather buzzed (well, okay I was plumb drunk) and everything around was already closed. We decided to wander over to Little Italy to see if we could luck out with finding somewhere open to get big, satisfying plates of pasta. Lo and behold, we found La Mela. Open, mostly empty, pretty inexpensive and with great reviews online.

We were seated right away and quickly scanned the menu. Water and bread were brought out and our orders were taken. I chose the traditional spaghetti and meatballs which came out just a few moments later. Perfect. It totally hit the spot (from what I can remember) and left me with 2 extra meals worth for the following day. The meatballs were huge and delicious and the pasta sauce was bright, flavorful and hot. The pasta was definitely not homemade, but it was fine anyway, and the price was very fair.

If you’re in the area, especially late at night, I’d suggest giving it a try.

Nino’s: 1354 First Ave. New York, NY

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Last night marked two days before I run the NYC half marathon for my second time, and what better reason is there than to go feast on 3 courses of rich Italian food at Nino’s? I’ve walked past Nino’s many time, being that I live less than 10 blocks away, and it always looks fairly empty from the front. What I did not realize is that the back is totally packed and hopping with a well-dressed Upper East Side crowd. Mixed ages, some on dates, some with family, and even a couple of birthday celebrations, this restaurant is clearly a favorite of locals. Judging by the many signed photographs and books, it’s also a celebrity hotspot.

Nino, the dapper gentleman who owns the restaurant,  warmly welcomed Gabriel and I and led us to our table. It was a good thing we had made a reservation because there were only a few free tables that evening, and I again wondered how I’d never been in before. A grand piano in the corner was played by a musician with a lovely voice, and his tasteful mix of standards and show tunes made for a pleasant mood. He showed beautiful restraint and control with his voice, and I really enjoyed the old school flavor of listening to live music while we dined.

Our waiter came out for our drink order and brought us crusty bread, bean/garlic/herb dip (YUM!) and water along with our menus. He went over the specials for us and gave us a few minutes to decide. I should definitely take this time to mention that the service was the standout at Nino’s. As much as my personal preference tends to be more contemporary, innovative, creative foods, the impeccable formality of the service at Nino’s is very special. The menu is traditional Northern Italian, and it is very comfortable with that fact. No crazy foams and strange flavor combinations here, just classic, time-tested favorites. The dishes are served with the flair of restaurants that have been around forever and cater to a crowd who will accept nothing but premier treatment. We were checked on frequently during and between courses but it was done in a way that didn’t feel over-bearing at all, just attentive and wanting to make sure we had a great experience.

Now, on to the food. The dishes we ordered were as follows: For our starters, I had the Pera e Prosciutto: Charred pear wrapped with san daniele prosciutto, reggiano chunks and truffled honey. The combination of flavors and textures on the plate were absolutely wonderful. The slight crunch of the pear wrapped in salty prosciutto went so perfectly with the crumbly reggiano and the drizzle of truffle honey tied it all together in such a luxurious way. This was my favorite dish of the evening. Gabriel had the Carpaccio Alla Romana: Thinly sliced filet mignon served with arugula, shaved artichokes, reggiano, basil and lemon drops. The meat was sliced beautifully and was incredibly tender. It was slightly lacking in flavor, but the reggiano and lemon helped to brighten it up a bit. A bit of black pepper really made it come alive for me.

For my entree I had the Capesante: Seared diver scallops with onion marmalade, english peas, diced pancetta and almond browned butter. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed with this one. I felt that the scallops were over-cooked, the sauce they sat in was too strong for such a delicate mollusk and that the peas it came with did not taste like they were fresh- or maybe they were also just a bit over-cooked. The flavor was excellent and I love scallops, so I was happy to eat them anyway, but I think this dish could use a bit of re-working in general. Gabriel’s entree was the Ravioli Fatti in Casa Homemade ravioli: stuffed with ricotta and prosciutto cotto, sautéed with butter and vegetable broth with a hint of pesto. I preferred his entree choice to mine. I felt that the vegetables on top (a mix of thinly sliced squash, peppers etc) were a lovely assortment for the beginning of spring. The thin dough of the ravioli was delicate, but strong enough to hold a delicious interior filled with prosciutto and ricotta. The buttery sauce was light and complemented the ravioli beautifully. Judging from these two entrees, I would imagine that sticking to the more traditional Italian pastas is the way to go when ordering from Nino’s menu. If I return, I plan to try the Spaghetti Carbonara or the Gnocchi.

For our desserts we shared two; the delicious, creamy, rich, tiramisu and the strawberries with custard (I’m not sure of the exact name of this dish but it is one of their specialties) I’m always amazing by tiramisu in general, that something so incredibly rich can also taste so light. This was a wonderful dessert, and beautifully presented. The strawberry dessert was prepared table-side in a dramatic presentation. Our waiter whisked together egg yolk, cream, amaretto and champagne into a warm custard and poured it over a glass full of ripe strawberries. Next, he dusted a coating of biscotti crumbs over the top before he served it to us. This was not something I’d normally order (no chocolate!) but It was a refreshing way to end a lavish meal. The custard was creamy and almond-y and not the liquor was not over-powering like it sometimes can be. We decided to each order a cappuccino and were delighted when they were brought out with an impressive tower of fresh fruit and fresh homemade biscotti. Just when I think I’m totally full, it’s amazing to me that I can always find just a little more room for the extras.

Overall, Nino’s restaurant is a real class act. It’s clear to see why it’s a celebrity in it’s own right, and why it attracts people with a taste for the traditional to dine here time and time again. Bravo Nino’s and thank you for a wonderful evening.

 

Centolire: 1167 Madison ave. NY NY

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My aunt chose Centolire as the restaurant to celebrate my beloved Grandmother’s 96th birthday in, and what a perfect choice it was. There was an elevator to get to the upstairs dining area, and we were seated at a comfortable table near the windows. The decor is tasteful and cheery with fresh flowers, lots of sunlight streaming in, and orange and gold banquets. The service which was slightly on the formal side, was incredible knowledgable and attentive, save for some empty water glasses towards the end of our meal.

A $25 3 course prix fix was a very reasonable cost for a fine quality meal and the menu was full of so many appealing dishes that we all had a tough time choosing. Luckily for me, my boyfriend and I have very similar taste in food and were happy to share everything, so we were each able to try 6 dishes instead of just 3.

The fresh Italian bread that arrived in a basket alongside delicious olive oil was a good indication of the food to follow. Wonderfully fresh and high quality, the excellent olive oil was clearly carefully selected.

We began with our appetizers: a risotto topped with a bacon wrapped scallop and a baby artichoke, arugula salad with parmesan. Both were fantastic, and even though the one lonely scallop looked like not quite enough to share, it really was. Cooked to perfection and wrapped with a thick slice of bacon, this was amazing on top of the creamy, cheesy risotto and had we opted for the entree sized portion of it, it would have been too much. The salad was simple but fresh and delicious, and the thick slices of parmesan on top were again clearly of high quality.

For one of our entrees we chose the grilled salmon with broccoli rabe, which turned out to be good- but pretty boring. The fish was very fresh and cooked perfectly with a crisp crust. The broccoli rabe had large sliced of roasted garlic and was not at all bitter as it sometimes is. That said, the dish lacked anything exciting or original about it and we were a little disappointed with it’s simplicity.

The ‘strangled priest’ pasta with chicken ragout was a total hit. I’d never had this oddly named pasta before- they were almost like little twisted dumplings and had a great sort of springy consistency to them. The creamy, tomato-y chicken ragout had a similar texture to pulled pork and was something quite different than I’ve had before. I throughly enjoyed this dish and pretty much licked the bowl clean.

Alongside of a delicious cappuccino we shared our 2 desserts. The 2 scoops of gelato were incredible, on one side was pistacho and the other was amaretto flavor. I LOVED the amaretto one and really would have like a giant container of that one to take home. It had little ribbons of the almond cookies going through it and I was pretty much in heaven except that it was gone too quickly. The blueberry and vanilla creme tart turned out to be much more cake-y than tart-y but very good no matter what it was called. It was not too sweet but had a lovely crumbly texture and large fresh blueberries inside.

Overall, I was very pleased with Centolire, especially since the reviews online are kind of mixed and I didn’t go in with terribly high expectations. I would absolutely recommend a visit and think it’s a great choice for a date, a group or even dining alone. When we went, it was a fairly mixed clientele, centering around what seemed to be families and I got the feeling that it’s generally a local Upper East Side crowd. Bravo Centolire!

 

 

Farinella: 1132 Lexington Ave. NY NY

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I was excited to try Farinella for lunch today since I’d just bought a ‘Groupon Now’ deal for it.
I placed my order for pizza that looked lovely and a beet and goat cheese salad and showed them my Groupon when I went to pay for it.
The cashier gave me serious attitude and first said the groupon had expired. Ummm, no it hadn’t. It was a Groupon NOW deal, just bought, and good for today only.
She told me they never signed up for Groupon Now deals and wouldn’t honor it.
Oooookay.
I turned and left.
Too bad too, because I was looking forward to reviewing this place. Oh well. Not going back to pay full price for their overpriced food.

p.s. Yes, I called Groupon and explained what happened. They happily refunded my money and said they’d definitely be looking into it.
I’m guessing Farinella is staffed by a bunch of idiots and/or liars.

Centro Vinoteca: 74 7th ave south. NY NY

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I LOVE when my dear friend Betsy realizes that groupons and other various deals are about to expire and turns to me as her trusty last minute lunch companion. This was a great one, and I was really psyched to be invited.

When I first walked in to Centro Vinoteca, the atmosphere was striking. Lots of clean, white lines, quirky cool chandeliers and huge windows looking out onto 7th ave. Water and bread were brought out immediately and the waiter told us our wine choices. (The deal included 2 apps, 2 entrees and 2 glasses of wine) We both ordered the Sauvignon Blanc and perused the menu while we enjoyed the delicious bread and olive oil.

As always, we decided to share everything. We started with the arugula salad, which in the menu was described as accompanied by pecans, gorgonzola and mission figs, but in reality came with pecans, apples and tomatoes. Hmm. Very tasty, but a bit disappointing that the description was clearly incorrect. I love figs and there were none in sight. If, perhaps, the dressing was where the figs were hidden, I could not detect them at all. The lack of gorgonzola was fine since the other dishes we chose were plenty heavy, but I think they should definitely clarify this salad’s ingredients in the menu. Next we shared the eggplant parmigiana appetizer at the waiter’s suggestion. He was correct, it was indeed wonderful. The eggplant were sliced thinly and not breaded at all which I strongly prefer over heavily breaded and fried eggplant where you can’t even tell what it is. Inside was creamy mozzarella and a light tomato sauce. This was a great dish.

For our entrees we had the gnocchi with bolognese which was awesome. Surprisingly light tasting for such a heavy dish. It was warm, hearty and full of flavor. With a dusting of parmesan on top it left nothing to be desired. We also shared the mushroom and fontina panini which was just slightly too oily, but crisp, melty and full of meaty roasted mushrooms. It was also served with a side of pickles and arugula which we hardly touched since we’d already had plenty of arugula at the start.

Feeling the carb coma setting in, we decided to each order a cappuccino which was a really special treat. I usually only drink coffee drinks with skim or low fat milk, but since they only had whole milk I decided I may as well indulge. After all, this was in lieu of dessert. It was foamy, cinnamony, rich and creamy, exactly as it should be, and was the perfect ending to this Italian meal.

I would absolutely recommend this restaurant to others if you are in the area. The service was excellent, and the lunch crowd was quiet. We were in and out in about an hour, with plenty of time to chat. The only negative was that the menu wasn’t accurate, not only with the salad mess up, but also because something else we initially ordered was no longer available. As far as I’m concerned, those are fairly minor flaws and the fantastic food more than made up for it. Check it out!

Club A Steakhouse: 240 E. 58th St. New York NY

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My friend and I had a prix fix dinner deal for 2 from Living Social that we finally got to use tonight. It was $69 and included 2 apps, 2 sides, 2 entrees and 2 desserts. What a great deal! I walked in and was greeted by B, sitting at the bar, sipping a glass of red wine. It was a beautiful atmosphere to walk into with an abundance of warm red fabrics, candlelit tables and red roses. The host asked if we’d like to be seated downstairs or upstairs, and told us that upstairs had banquets instead of tables. Wanting the cozy warmth of a booth, we opted to go up. What a great decision. As soon as we got up there we noticed the red quilted ceiling and the huge window looking out on twinkling, white, Christmas lights in the trees outside. We settled into our seats and I ordered myself a glass of Malbec, my favorite red wine.

A basket of lovely rosemary bread, onion bread, and breadsticks were brought out along with butter and ice water. The waiter brought us our menus a few minutes later. We had about 6 choices in each section- better than most prix fixes I’ve seen, and just about everything sounded appealing. B and I are EXCELLENT at sharing and we always seem to agree on the same dishes which, along with a easy, lively conversation, makes us perfect dining partners. We opted to share everything.

We started with the caesar salad and the fried calamari. The salad was covered in delicious shavings of parmesan. The homemade dressing that came with it was perfect with just enough anchovies to give it great flavor- but not totally too many which can be overpowering. The calamari was ok- a little too breaded for my taste, but nice and crunchy and accompanied by an awesome spicy marinara.

Next we shared the hanger steak and the filet mignon and both were cooked to absolute perfection. The filet was SO buttery and tender and actually had a lot of flavor. We expected that of the hanger but not the filet which I often find is sort of flavorless but a great consistency, so that was a pleasant surprise. The hanger was our favorite though. It was still very tender but also extremely juicy and flavorful. It was cooked to the exact specification that we requested, medium rare. For our sides we asked for the mashed potatoes and the truffle infused creamed spinach and were delighted when they surprised us with the mac and cheese as an additional side. Yes, surely a nice, light dinner. Haha. The dishes were all so generous that I was able to bring home some of everything to enjoy the following day. All of the sides arrived in their own little crocks, an adorable presentation of delicious and hearty food. What a great meal for a cold, winter night with a dear friend.

Our desserts were pretty good but not outstanding. Then again, that might have just been because we were already stuffed to the brim. The tiramisu was fine, but not terribly exciting. The cream puffs were tasty, but boring, simply filled with cream and covered in more cream. It definitely could have used some berries to brighten it up a bit. Those were the only 2 choices for dessert and I was pretty unimpressed with them considering the quality of everything else. No chocolate option? No ice cream, sorbet, pie or fruit option? That was the only part of the meal that wasn’t awesome.

The only other thing that I think is worth a mention is the service. Although they were very professional, polite and friendly, they were slow as mud. We didn’t really mind since we wanted to chat and they didn’t seem to care if we lingered for hours, but it would have been nice if they checked in on us a few times during our meal and in between courses. We literally sat for an hour sipping the end of our glasses of wine waiting for the check and eventually flagged someone down to bring it over. Again, I’m not sure that this is a negative…just something worth mentioning.

Overall, I really liked Club A. I thought the atmosphere was incredibly romantic and sexy and would be a great place for a date on Valentines’ Day or another romantic occasion. I will certainly consider a repeat visit…especially if they run another fantastic deal like this one!

ADDENDUM!!

Gabriel and I returned to Club A to celebrate Valentine’s Day and WOW, what a special evening it was. 

There was SO much food we practically rolled out of there at the end of the night, but the overindulgence was worth every single calorie and  I can’t possibly say enough good things about the way we were treated and the food we consumed.

We were treated like absolute royalty by the staff and Bruno, the owner. First, a bottle of champagne and a basket of bread was brought over. Next a complimentary bottle of wonderful red wine was elaborately decanted for us.

Two of the largest shrimp cocktail were our next surprise, YUM!

We shared a caeser salad and a garden salad and I must rave for a moment about the outstanding caeser dressing. It was thick and creamy, with a lovely anchovy flavor and a hint of parmesan. One of the best caesers I’ve ever had.

We were then surprised yet again with a treat of lobster ravoili. The chunks of lobster inside were so decadent and fresh, this might have been my favorite part of the meal. At this point, we already felt SO full, but there was still a ton of food coming so we prepared ourselves. I began thinking that my skintight pencil dress might not have been the best choice for my outfit.

Out came our hanger steak and NY strip, cooked to perfection with the perfect amount of pink in the center. The outside was crisp and had so much flavor and juice inside…we were in meaty heaven. We also shared 2 wonderful sides of truffle oil creamed spinach and amazing mashed potatoes. We took some of the steak home and began thinking that perhaps we’d opt to take our desserts home too… Just then, out they arrived before we even ordered them! A PLATTER of sweets for us to squeeze into our bellies. It’s funny how there always seems to be just a little more room when you absolutely need it. We shared a gorgeous array of chocolate heart-sharped cake, cream puffs AND tiramisu and were blown away by the beautiful presentation of fruit that arrived  shortly after. WOW.

This was seriously the most food I’ve put away in one sitting. I was still full the next morning! Thank you SO much to Arben, Bruno and the whole staff at Club A. This was a night we will cherish in our memories forever.

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.