1999-10-20 / Restaurant of the Week

Superior Northern Italian Cuisine At Villa Istriana


Of The Week

By Teresa Barile

From start to finish, a meal at Villa Istriana on Union Turnpike in Flushing is a pleasant and satisfying experience. Start with antipasto "Bino," a generous platter of appetizers made for two, that includes shrimp scampi, clams casino, mussels oreganata, spiedini romana and stuffed mushrooms. You’ll want to soak up every drop of the delicious juices with lots of warm, crusty Italian bread. The special appetizer of the day on one occasion was fire-roasted red peppers and creamy mozzarella. The mussels in white wine sauce and garlic are equally as tempting and delicious. Or perhaps you’d like a bowl of Villa Istriana’s homemade stracciatella Fiorentina soup, a type of egg drop soup laced with spinach and parmesan cheese, to start your meal.

Don’t let the humble facade fool you—inside there is exceptional northern Italian cuisine being served in a warm, homey atmosphere, complete with still life paintings on the walls. Gracious host Albino Zupicich greets each and every guest personally and describes the specials of the day in mouthwatering detail.

There are some entree specialties of the house that both Zupicich and I highly recommend: the homemade gnocchi (potato dumplings) are toothsome yet tender, smothered in a meaty veal sauce or the sauce of your choice ($9.95). A plate can be shared as a first course or ordered as a hearty entree. Another specialty is the striped bass or red snapper filet, cooked in a broth of white wine, tomato and scallions. I marveled at how fresh this completely boneless bass with its aromatic broth, was. Paglia e fieno, which means "hay and straw" in Italian, tosses white and green noodles with sweet peas and prosciutto in a light cream sauce to create a delicious pasta dish ($9.95). That evening’s pasta special featured linguine with a pink salmon sauce.

Villa Istriana has gained quite a reputation for its famous veal chop. Nearly two inches thick, this Goliath of a veal chop is cooked to order and topped with fresh mushrooms, onion and sprigs of fresh sage, creating an irresistible aroma. Accompanied by a bottle of wine from the reasonably priced wine list, this meal rivals any found in expensive restaurants in Manhattan. Steak pizzaiolo is a traditional dish, topped with peppers, tomatoes, oregano and garlic ($18.95). Spezzato di pollo Albino blends boneless morsels of chicken with broccoli, artichoke, wine and garlic for a light and flavorful meal ($14.50).

There are always fresh fish specials like salmon livornese, gently cooked with tomato, onions and white wine. Shrimp fra diavolo features a spicy sauce, and is served over a mound of linguine. Shrimp or sole can be prepared francese style. For an excellent meal at a low price, one should really try Villa Istriana’s complete dinner specials. Served Sunday through Friday, a complete dinner features a choice of appetizer, a delectable entree such as veal piccata or linguine with clam sauce, vegetable, dessert and coffee. Prices range from $12.95 to $15.95. For a few dollars more, the Saturday all-inclusive dinner includes such choices as lobster-stuffed ravioli and the catch of the day.

Villa Istriana is open Tuesday through Thursday for dinner from 3 until 10 p.m.and Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m, on Sundays, dinner is served from 1 until 9 p.m. The restaurant is closed Mondays. A separate dining room can accommodate up to 40 people for a private party.

Just when you think you can breathe again, the dessert cart comes by laden with homemade tiramisu, napoleons, rum cake and pastries. For a real northern Italian treat try the homemade tiramisu, so creamy it is served in a parfait glass. Cappuccino or espresso are obvious choices to complete a fabulous meal. It is no wonder the comfortable dining room was packed with loyal patrons. For superior cuisine in a casual setting, visit Villa Istriana.

Villa Istriana

179-22 Union Tpke.


(718) 969-0061

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