2004-08-18 / Restaurant of the Week

Junior’s Café Epitomizes Corner Italian Restaurant

Junior’s Café Epitomizes Corner Italian Restaurant

Junior’s Café Epitomizes Corner Italian Restaurant

Junior’s Café  46-18 Vernon Blvd. Long Island City 718-472-9694Junior’s Café 46-18 Vernon Blvd. Long Island City 718-472-9694

Junior’s Café is the epitome of a neighborhood corner Italian restaurant—everyone is treated like family and the food is as good as grandma’s. Celebrating over four years in Long Island City, Junior’s Café boasts a new façade on the busy corner of Vernon Boulevard and 46th Road. Inside, everyone from Junior DiCaprio, the owner, and his partner, Alfonso Taibi, to Nicki and Flo, who know most of the customers by name, is friendly.

There’s always a crowd at the bar sharing pizzas and plates of crispy calamari rings. In the front dining room there’s lots of chatter as fans watch sports games on the big screen television while they savor their meals. The rear dining room is more tranquil, befitting its occasional use by private parties of up to 60 people. Kids, too, love coming to Junior’s, where they get to check out Junior’s fish tank as well as enjoy favorite entrees such as spaghetti and meatballs.

Junior’s Café offers chicken, veal, steak and fish entrees, arguably the best pizza in town and delicious pasta dishes, Sundays at Juniors are made special by Junior’s Pasta Festa, a buffet of six or seven pastas served with salad and warm bread for just $9.95 per person. This all-you-can-eat buffet features ravioli, cavatelli, rigatoni Bolognese and stuffed shells. It’s not only delicious, but also an economical way to celebrate Sundays with your family and friends.

Appetizers include Junior’s famous clams casino ($7.95), almost mandatory as a start to any meal. Whole, fresh clams are topped with crisp, seasoned breadcrumbs and a piece of crunchy bacon. The sauce, laden with lemon and parsley, begs to be soaked up with the warm, crusty bread that’s always brought to the table. You’ll also want to try the zuppa di mussels in garlicky red or white wine sauce. Grilled calamari over salad should not be missed either. The chef’s pasta e fagioli soup rivals my grandmother’s.

One of Junior’s most popular pasta entrees is the mixed seafood pasta, a heaping bowl of linguine or spaghetti covered with a mélange of fresh shrimp, clams, mussels and scallops with choice of red or white sauce ($16.95). This dish is sure to please any seafood lover. Handmade lobster ravioli, packed with sweet lobster meat and drizzled with a delicate basil cream sauce, is delicious ($10.95). One of my favorite pasta dishes, rigatoni with broccoli, garlic and oil, is simple and flavorful for $7.95.

Junior’s also offers selections from the grill, including 16-ounce shell steak and thick cut pork chops. Tender veal is prepared with marsala or a la francese, with lemon butter sauce. Among the chef’s tantalizing specials are fresh fish of the day, prepared any way you like, as well as a number of shrimp entrees, including savory shrimp scampi. For a lighter meal, try the chicken capricciosa, a tender, breaded chicken cutlet topped with chopped tomatoes and red onion with balsamic vinaigrette dressing ($12.95). Entrees are served with pasta, potato or fresh sautéed vegetables.

For dessert, choose among homemade cheesecake, cannolis or tartufo. For me, the choice was simple: a cannoli hand-filled with homemade cream. Pair one with a robust espresso, cappuccino or coffee for a spectacular finish to a wonderful meal. Junior’s Café uses only fresh, seasonal ingredients for all their menu offerings and all orders are prepared on the spot for superior flavor and freshness.

Adding to the delights of Junior’s Café is the fact that DiCaprio is an active member of the community. He sponsors an annual old-timers’ barbecue for neighborhood residents and an antique car show; see his advertisement in this issue for more information.

Visit Junior’s Café for lunch or dinner, seven days a week. Credit cards are accepted and smiling customers with big appetites are welcome, so bring your friends and family to Junior’s Café where Queens meets Manhattan —the stunning view of the Empire State Building from just down the street makes this Manhattan landmark seem close enough to touch. Come as you are for generous portions of delicious food at very affordable prices.

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