Of The Week
Lorusso Offers Gourmet Focaccia And Much More
Lorusso Focacceria is tucked away on a secluded corner at 26th Road and 18th Street in Astoria, just one block away from the park under the Triborough Bridge. It's worth seeking out— Lorusso's makes the best focaccia outside of Italy. This quaint corner eatery, which boasts a glorious view of the bridge, is a family-run operation, with Mario and Domenica Lorusso at the helm, and their children, Giovanni and Maria, helping out. The Lorusso family hails from Bari, a city just above the heel of the boot of Italy, the region where focaccia was born. Since my family came from the same place, I can tell you that Lorusso's focaccia is the real thing.
Lorusso's oven cranks out hundreds of focaccia each day, and with so many varieties, you could come every day for two weeks and try a different one each time. The focaccia are sized in individual portions and lighter than air, thanks to Mario's homemade dough. In fact, one entire focaccia actually weighs less than just one slice of pizza, so you won't feel weighed down. Paired up with a crunchy salad, you've got the perfect lunch or dinner. Start with the original focaccia, which is drizzled with olive oil, squeezed tomato, herbs and coarse salt. The tender crust just melts in the mouth and the absence of cheese makes it perfect for those avoiding milk products. At $2.50, you can't go wrong. Or top it with grilled zucchini in balsamic vinegar and fresh tomatoes. Lorusso puts their own sun-dried tomatoes on top of focaccia with slices of tender, grilled chicken breast for a hearty lunch or dinner ($5). That variety, says Mario, is the most popular with the folks at Goodwill Industries. I loved the fresh grilled eggplant and tomato, and the mushroom and ricotta cheese, too. A healthy amount of fresh spinach and cheese makes another great choice, as does the roasted red pepper and fresh mozzarella variety.
For those who crave meat, try the Bolognese focaccia with a thick meat sauce on top, or the sausage and peppers. There's even a Hawaiian style, with fresh slices of ham and pineapple. If you don't see exactly what you want, they'll make a focaccia with your own combination of toppings, so be creative. Eat at one of their marble tables in the sparkling clean dining room, with cool tile floors and marble walls.
Lorusso also makes wonderful, crisp pizza, with all the favorite toppings, but it's important to note that this is not a run-of-the-mill pizzeria. In fact, Lorusso doesn't want to be thought of as a pizzeria at all. You can buy cheeses and sliced meats and salami to take home. Their own sun-dried tomatoes are packed and sold to the public. A traditional Barese biscuit called taralli looks like oval knots and flavored with fennel seeds are available for sale and make nice gifts. Italian coffee, pastry and fruit juices are also for sale, as are Italian ices.
In addition to the focaccia, pizza and delicacies, Lorusso makes lots of fresh pasta dishes such as penne puttanesca, with olives, capers and tomatoes ($6). Jumbo shells are filled with fluffy ricotta and spinach and ravioli are filled with meat or cheese, at just $7 for a generous portion. Combination plates, like veal or chicken parmigiana, come with a choice of ziti, spaghetti or salad for about $9. Best of all, Lorusso will deliver to your home or office, or just pick something up on your way home from work.
Panini are sandwiches, made on a choice of crisp round rolls or sub-sized bread. Try roast beef with melted cheese or grilled chicken breast with lettuce and tomato. The Italian hero is made with prosciutto, provolone and roasted peppers and will satisfy even the biggest appetite. Hot meatball parmigiana or sausage and peppers will warm you up on a cold day, as will homemade soups such as pasta e fagioli and minestrone. For dessert, try a freshly filled cannoli, some creamy tiramisu or ice cream, and the espresso and cappuccino are out of this world.
Lorusso has a complete catering menu for any event, at office, home or other location. The prices are extremely reasonable and the menu can feature favorite entreés, salad and focaccia to make any party a success.
The Lorusso family, residents of Astoria, who’ve been making focaccia in Manhattan for 30 years, opened their new shop four months ago. They're open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (11 p.m. on weekends).
18-01 26th Rd., Astoria