Apicius Proffers Italian Cuisine, Casual Fine Dining
T his cozy little trattoria, tucked away at the quiet end of Steinway Street, is a real treat for those seeking high quality, sophisticated Italian cuisine in a casual setting at very affordable prices. The restaurant is named after Apicius, a Roman chef who was born in 25 B.C. and spent his short life experimenting with extravagant dishes to please the Roman emperors. Likewise, newly opened Apicius Italian Cuisine will please your other senses as well as your appetite.
Apicius is owned and efficiently run by the amiable Simon Galeas, who is always on hand to ensure a pleasant meal. The dining room is painted in saturated Tuscan colors including terra cotta and sage, which enhance the beauty of the restaurant’s paintings of the Italian countryside. Wooden tables and upholstered chairs can accommodate intimate dining for two or a large family of hungry diners and enhance the homelike feeling. Soft music fills the air.
Apicius offers everything from veal saltimbocca, a typical Roman dish, to fabulous pizza, with homemade dough made light and crisp in stone-lined ovens. Start with a bottle of wine and munch on a basket of warm focaccia just out of the oven while you peruse the menu. Appetizers include freshly grilled Portobello mushroom with shaved Parmigiano cheese and fresh mussels cooked in either spicy marinara sauce or white wine ($7.25). Grilled seasonal vegetables on toasted garlic bread and topped with mozzarella are perfect for sharing and go well together, while the eggplant rollatini could be a meal in itself. Homemade soups such as Tuscan vegetable or traditional minestrone are perfect on a cold day. I was very impressed with the House Specialty salad of baby greens tossed with crisp pancetta (Italian bacon), grilled pearl onions, blue cheese and sections of grapefruit ($7.50). The dressing is made with aged, reduced balsamic vinegar and makes the combination of all these flavors come alive.
Entrées encompass fish and seafood, veal, chicken and pork and, of course, pasta and risotto. We started with a shared portion of the risotto di giorno, a creamy blend of savory Arborio rice mixed with plump shrimp and seasoned with fragrant saffron. The board outside lists all the specials of the day and the friendly wait staff is happy to assist you. Simon had us try his wonderful veal saltimbocca, tender cutlets of veal, pounded and rolled with prosciutto and cheese. These delicate little bundles melted in our mouths. Veal Apicius made with sage leaves, bay leaf and olive oil is another popular dish.
Chicken Apicius combines some of my favorite foods for one hearty meal; crisp roasted chicken with a side portion of country fresh broccoli rabe and fresh cannellini beans ($12.95). Classic dishes such as chicken marsala or a la francese are prepared on the spot, so a little patience is in order. It’s quickly rewarded when a beautiful platter of piping hot food reaches your table.
Apicius prepares a number of fresh, inventive seafood dishes every day, such as lake trout baked in parchment paper with fennel, carrots, mushrooms and onions, served on a bed of orzo ($15). The parchment paper seals in all the wonderful juices and flavors and provides a savory sauce for the orzo. Plump shrimp are prepared nearly any way you’d like, be it grilled, scampi, francese or fra diavolo, all served with choice of pasta for around $13.95.
Pasta dishes range from $5.95 to $14.50 and include pappardelle with wild mushrooms, shrimp and shaved parmigiano, as well as linguine with baby shrimp and broccoli. Spaghetti carbonara made with Italian bacon, chopped onion, egg yolk and lots of Parmigiano is another classic Roman dish and at Apicius, so delicious, it’s clearly meant for the gods. Baked pasta such as ziti, manicotti and lasagna are also on the menu to please nearly everyone. For dessert, try fruity sorbets or fig gelato, tiramisu, Italian cheesecake and more. The espresso is rich and delicious.
Apicius is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. to accommodate a hungry breakfast and lunch crowd. At lunchtime, stop in for anything from a personal size, freshly baked pizza, to a panino sandwich stuffed with roasted veggies, chicken or Portobello mushrooms and mozzarella. In addition, a variety of dishes are put on a steam table where you’ll find roasted pork, pasta dishes, brisket of beef, hearty stew and more for easy service at one low price. Entrees offered here change each day to provide variety for the regular clientele.
Apicius is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dine in their comfortable dining room or order a meal to take out, with delivery available. There’s even a kid’s menu with items at $5.95 for finicky eaters. In order to keep the prices affordable, no credit cards are accepted at this time. All the same, you won’t regret a trip to Apicius Italian Cuisine. I know I’ll be back for the great pasta, pizza, seafood and meat entrees, all served in a cozy setting at affordable prices. Welcome, Apicius!
Apicius Italian Cuisine
20-72 Steinway Street, Astoria • 718.204.7722