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.