Superior Spanish Cuisine Is Hallmark Of El Olivo
When I crave the wonderful, robust flavors of Spanish cuisine, I head over to El Olivo, conveniently located on 31st Street in Astoria, just north of Ditmars Boulevard. Owner Riccardo Aguayo and his staff of charming waiters, led by Orlando, have been catering to diners’ tastes and pleasures for the past nine years.
To make a good thing even better, Aguayo recently completed extensive renovations that resulted in a larger, more airy dining room and a separate bar for patrons who just like to stop in for their favorite cocktail, ice cold beer or El Olivo’s famous sangria. Some choose to enjoy snacks or tapas at the bar, many of which make for a light and tasty meal. The sangria, bursting with fresh fruit, is available in red or white varieties, and is the best around, in my opinion. The dining room is done in a cool shade of cucumber green, which shows off the Spanish emblems and art objects on the walls.
El Olivo’s talented chef is always adding new items to the menu and daily specials. Try the super fresh mussels, prepared in a Spanish style red sauce with mild spices. Plump, tender Shrimps ajillo swimming in a heady garlic sauce that tastes best when sopped up with warm, crusty bread are also available as a main course. Sweet peppers are filled with crabmeat salad and served chilled. Serrano ham served with olives comes direct from Spain. Similar to prosciutto, it is sliced thicker and also teams up well with manchego cheese, a mild, sheep's milk cheese from Spain. Boquerones, tiny, fresh sardines marinated in tangy vinaigrette are perfect for sharing. Tender, white asparagus is abundant in Spain, and at El Olivo is prepared with a zesty salsa. For something really special, try the pulpo a la gallega, a warm stew of tender octopus prepared with delicate spices. You’ll also enjoy one of their satisfying soups such as sopa de mariscos, a hearty, delicious broth brimming with shrimp and clams.
The national dish of Spain, paella, is cooked in a cazuela, a heavy metal pot, and combines chicken, sausage and seafood with lots of saffron-infused rice and peas for a unique and satisfying meal. For a few dollars more, you can add lobster to this heavenly combination. At El Olivo, a whole lobster is broiled and split open, then topped with a delicious stuffing that combines shrimp, scallops and crabmeat with breadcrumbs.
Only the freshest fish and seafood is purchased and prepared in a number of ways. Filet of sole is accompanied by a light, lemony sauce with capers for a light and satisfying meal. Classic shrimp and rice is also served, as is grilled shrimp with sea salt, another summer favorite of mine. The chef’s specials may also include orange shrimp, shrimp francese or swordfish.
Another traditional Spanish dish is the arroz con pollo, a savory dish of chicken and rice with sausage. Chicken estremena is prepared with smoky chorizo sauce, onions and peppers.
Veal Sevillana is sautéed with onions and mushrooms for another taste-of-Spain treat. Juicy lamb chops or tender filet mignon with mushroom sauce will satisfy the meat and potatoes lover. A few classic Italian dishes such as linguine with seafood or chicken are also on the menu to please everyone’s tastes.
All entrees come with a fresh salad, yellow rice or El Olivo’s famous thinly sliced French fried potatoes. There are also freshly sautéed green vegetables to complete your dinner. All entrees can be prepared for two people at a nominal charge
Finish your meal with a glass of port, a traditional after dinner wine from Spain, and some flan, baked custard with a sweet caramelized sugar glaze. Fresh fruit sorbets, chocolate mousse cake and creamy rice pudding also fill out the dessert menu. Café con leche is the Spanish version of cappuccino and is served steaming hot, or try coffee flavored with various liqueurs such as Kahlua and Tia Maria.
El Olivo is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, with lunch specials from $8.95. The festive food and atmosphere lend themselves to a great evening. El Olivo is also a great place for a family party, office party or dinner with friends. Visit El Olivo on 31st Street in Astoria, where life is a fiesta. Weekend reservations are suggested and credit cards are accepted. Viva El Olivo!
21-15 31st St.