2000-02-02 / Restaurant of the Week


Of The Week

By Teresa Barile

Experience A Taste Of Spain At El Olivo


l Olivo Spanish Restaurant has made its mark in Astoria, offering freshly prepared Spanish cuisine and regional wines to a faithful clientele who come from as far away as Manhattan and New Jersey to enjoy its wonderful food.Known for its interpretation of the cuisine of Galicia, in northernSpain,El Olivo prepares wonderful appetizers, entrees and homemade desserts to reflect that hearty region. Its masculine interior features white walls, adorned with various emblems, swords and coats of arms. Deep red carpeting and soft lighting add to the dramatic effect of this restaurant.A large bar in the center of the room offers splendid apertifs,wines fromSpain and mixed drinks.Sangria, a drink typically made from wine and sherry sweetened with fresh fruit, is a perfect accompaniment to many of the dishes on the menu.

Start with one of the many appetizers such as chorizo, Spanish sausage that is grilled and sliced thin, and the stuffed mushrooms, bite-sized and filled with seasoned breadcrumbs.For something really special, try the pulpo a la gallega ($5.95), a warm stew of tender octopus, prepared with delicate spices. You’ll also enjoy one of their satisfying soups like garlic soup, or a rich bean soup.

Possibly the most famous and popular dish of Spain is called paella, pronounced "pi-ay-a."Cooked in a heavy metal pot, this traditional dish combines chicken, sausage and seafood with lots of saffron-infused rice and peas for a unique and satisfying meal. El Olivo makes a wonderful paella valenciana ($14.50 for a very generous serving). Heaped atop the rice are tender chunks of chicken, Spanish sausage and the freshest seafood available, including mussels, clams, scallops and shrimp.For a few dollars more, you can add lobster to this heavenly combination.All entrees can be prepared for two at a nominal charge. The well-dressed, professional waiters serve from a cart brought to your table and attend to your every request quickly and courteously.

Seafood is a big part of Spanish cuisine and El Olivo serves the best.Try the shrimp ajillo, shrimp with garlic, a dish that combines plump, fresh shrimp with a special roasted garlic sauce that is out of this world.Shrimp ajillo is also available as an appetizer, and I strongly recommend it. You can also enjoy shrimp grilled on an open flame creole style, with tomatoes, peppers and onion, and diablo style with a peppery hot sauce. One of the most popular dishes on the menu is parrillada de mariscos, or seafood mixed grill.An entire creuset pan, brimming with a half lobster, scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels and a filet of red snapper is brought to your table for only $17.95.

Riccardo Agayo, the owner of ElOlivo, says that the most popular fish dish is filet of sole ala acaparra, sole prepared with a Spanish caper sauce ($13.75). The sole is white and tender and the tangy sauce makes it melt in your mouth.Even the meat and potato lover will be sated here, with broiled shell steaks, filet mignon with mushroom sauce and stuffed breast of veal.All entrees are served with a colorful salad and homemade house dressing, choice of rice, potatoes or vegetables. What’s more, anything on the menu can be prepared for taking home, or they’ll deliver it to you at no extra charge. Daily specials include wonderful fish soup, shrimp in white wine sauce and a weekend favorite, stuffed lobster Olivo.El Olivo is also open for lunch, with specials from $7.95 to $8.95.

Agayo keeps very busy with his second Spanish restaurant, "Las Brisas,"near the Citibank Building inLong Island City. Both restaurants offer the same great menu and can do private parties for up to 30 people.Las Brisas is closed onSundays, while El Olivo is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Finish a meal with a glass of port, a traditional after-dinner wine fromSpain, and some flan, a baked custard with a sweet caramelized sugar glaze.Café con leché, the Spanish version of cappuccino, is served steaming hot, as are coffees flavored with various liqueurs and cream.El Olivo offers the best inSpanish cuisine, excellent service and reasonable pries.Credit cards are accepted. Open Sunday throughThursday from noon until 11 p.m., midnight on the weekend.

El Olivo

21-15 31st St., Astoria

(718) 932-4040

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