1999-09-15 / Restaurant of the Week

Elegant Northern Italian Cuisine At Punta Dura

Restaurant

Of The Week

By Teresa Barile

As the restaurant celebrates nearly 10 years in business, a visit to Punta Dura is a treat for all your senses. Perhaps the best Italian cuisine comes from Istria, in the northern reaches of Croatia. In my opinion, Punta Dura exemplifies this regional cooking to the finest degree.

Even the decor evokes a classic Italian villa, with its spacious dining room featuring wood floors, rich mahogany wainscotting and luxurious draperies. Light sage green walls are dotted with romantic sconces that emit a soft glow while a pianist at a grand piano fills the room with dulcet songs from Italy. Punta Dura has been featured in several episodes of the hit Home Box Office show, "The Sopranos." Yet another one is shooting next week.

Enjoy a bottle of fine wine delivered by tuxedo-clad waiters while you pore over the enticing menu. At Punta Dura, the service is equally as remarkable as the food. A most professional waiter described the specials of the day in tantalizing detail. Istrian style sliced, roasted veal with homemade gnocchi sounded too good to pass up, and it was. Owner Joseph Radovich and his wife Daniela run a tight ship and she makes those delectable gnocchi herself.

Appetizers on the menu include pulpo Adriatico, a delightful salad of tender octopus, potato and onion in a zesty marinade ($8.75). A favorite starter is the carpaccio di carne, paper thin slices of raw filet mignon, shaved parmigiana cheese and arugula salad. My companion kindly let me try his steaming bowl of homemade pasta e fagioli, rich with white beans and roasted garlic that lent a woodsy note to this traditional soup ($5.75). Roasted red peppers bursting with flavor were served over fresh mozzarella cheese with a hunk of crisp Italian bread.

Punta Dura offers a full range of meat, fish and chicken entrees, all prepared with an Istrian twist, such as the pollo sette collo, a pounded, fork-tender breast of chicken sauteed with artichoke hearts and mushrooms in a delicate sauce ($13.75). Northern Italian cuisine features many veal dishes, my favorite of which is the Val D’Ostana, a hefty veal chop layered with prosciutto and fontina cheese in a mushroom sauce. Cotoletta Punta Dura is a pounded paillard of veal topped with asparagus, cheese and white wine.

Only the freshest fish and seafood is served at Punta Dura, offering various selections including striped bass, grouper, or snapper, grilled whole and deboned for one’s dining pleasure. All meat and fish entrees are served with vegetables of the day, a selection that may include fresh broccoli or escarole sauteed with olive oil and garlic.

The pasta at Punta Dura is very special because it is homemade. Tagliatelle trifolatti, ribbon pasta, is tossed with an aromatic blend of three types of wild mushrooms for a very flavorful dish ($13.50). Pappardelle al finocchio is diced chicken tossed with fennel and rosemary for a fragrant and satisfying meal that goes well with a fine chianti. Risotto made with Arborio, rice slow-cooked with rich stock and tossed with fresh seafood or vegetables ($16.75), is a typical northern Italian dish.

Since all the food is made to order, the chef will be happy to customize a dish to a diner’s liking, and again, the service is impeccable. Finish an already wonderful meal with a fabulous slice of homemade tiramisu, Grand Marnier cake, chocolate mousse cake or hazelnut cake. A frothy cappuccino is highly recommended, as is an after-dinner cordial such as anisette or amaretto.

A private banquet room can accommodate 80 to 100 people with the same level of excellence and elegance for a private party or business dinner. Start making holiday plans early, as Millennium celebrations are taking up space quickly. Try a different slant on Italian cooking at Punta Dura and enjoy fine food, wine, music and excellent service. Open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 11 p.m. for lunch and dinner, Saturday from 3 p.m. for dinner and Sunday from 1 p.m. for dinner. Closed Mondays.

Punta Dura

41-15 34th Ave.

Astoria

721-2137

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