2005-11-30 / Features

Gianaris Hails Queens Eateries In Michelin Guide

by linda j. wilson

The prestigious Michelin Restaurant Guide , which covers what are regarded in knowledgeable circles as the best restaurants in New York City, this year listed 13 eateries in Queens, six of them in the Astoria-Long Island City area, among the 507 restaurants it considers the best of the 23,000 in the five boroughs. Asemblymember Michael Gianaris congratulated the Astoria business community for the achievement. “We’ve always known that our restaurants are as good, or better than any in Manhattan,” Gianaris declared. “It’s good to see that others are now realizing what a treasure our neighborhood is.”

Three of the Astoria six are fairly close to each other on Ditmars Boulevard in the vicinity of 31st Street: Trattoria L’incontro at 21-76 31st St, 718 at 35-01 Ditmars Blvd. and Taverna Kyclades, 33-07 Ditmars Blvd.

Trattoria L’incontro is run by Rocco Sacramone, who acquired his talent and aptitude for the cuisine of the Abruzzo region of Italy from his mother, Tina. “The cuisine here is a combination of traditional classics and state-of-the-art fare--and it is all the culmination of a careful creative project. We never stop demanding perfection from ourselves,” Sacramone declared. Its “big flavors and big portions” earned the modern Italian trattoria high ratings from reviewers and customers.

718, a warm, candle-lit, trendy restaurant, is the brainchild of a trio of great friends who worked together in some of the finest French restaurants in New York City. The menu for dinner, weekend brunch and drinks after work is French with a Spanish flare, served in an atmosphere of love and romantic ambiance.

Taverna Kyclades , located in a complex of shops and apartments called the Acropolis, is all about seafood. Fresh fish purchased daily at the Fulton Fish Market by Andreas, husband of co-owner Caterina Skenderi, Andreas, can be fried, broiled or grilled whole. Most diners favor the lemon potatoes as an accompaniment and in summer like to dine outside in the garden. A pale-blue mural of the sky brings the outdoors inside when it’s no longer the season for dining alfresco.

The other three restaurants in or near Gianaris’ district are Brick Café, Malagueta and Piccola Venezia. Piccola Venezia Restaurant at 42-01 28th Ave, a family owned and operated establishment is celebrating 32 years of excellence. Featuring Northern Italian cuisine and specializing in fresh homemade pastas, seafood, top quality meats and game and world-class wines, Piccola Venezia is one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in the New York metropolitan area. The staff also specializes in catering, both on-premise and off and for special events hosted on premise offers a private dining room and prix-fix menus to accommodate any budget.

Malagueta , at 25-35 36th Ave., Astoria, specializes in Brazilian cuisine and a menu that features variety and creativity. French style presentation makes diners feel as though they are at a much fancier, pricier restaurant. Diners recommend the sausage and yuca appetizer and the steak. The staff is courteous and the prices reasonable.

Teresa Barile, this newspaper’s restaurant reviewer, last visited Brick Café at 30-95 33rd St. in September, when she reported that the restaurant continues to exceed expectations and surpass standards. “Classic European bistro fare and casual, cozy dining, all at reasonable prices, make every visit special,” she declared. French-inspired, Mediterranean dishes that include lots of fresh fish, pasta, meat and poultry head the menu. They’re open for dinner seven days a week and brunch as well on Saturday and Sunday.

“This distinction is further proof that Astoria is a great place to live, work, shop and, clearly, dine,” Gianaris added. “Whether one is looking for Greek, Italian, French or any other type of food, appetites for all kinds of cuisine can be satisfied in our neighborhood.”

Gianaris’ comment can be extended to the rest of the borough as well. The other seven restaurants cited in the Michelin Guide are located in Long Island City, Jackson Heights, Woodside, Flushing and Forest Hills.

In Long Island City, Water’s Edge is literally at the water’s edge; it’s on the banks of the East River at the end of 44th Drive. Reviewers cite it as a romantic restaurant where the water views are complemented by the cuisine and elegant decor. The wine list holds more than 1,000 bottles and the New American menu has wonderful selections. The Chef’s Choice Four-Course Tasting Menu with a Surprise is a favorite of diners who place themselves in Chef Ari Nieminen’s talented hands.

Tournesol at 50-12 Vernon Blvd. Long Island City, consistently fills its 40 seats with diners who appreciate its moderate prices and French cuisine, featuring such standbys as French onion soup, homemade foie gras terrine, and coq au vin.

Sripraphai , 64-13 39th Ave., in Woodside, serves standard and uncommon Thai dishes of the highest quality with authentic Thai flavors. A renovation in late 2004 transformed what had been a utilitarian space into a more welcoming spot and there’s an outdoor garden for summer dining as well.

Sapori D'Ischia , wedged between a warehouse and factories at 55-15 37th Ave., invites diners to share the fettucine wheel, a giant wheel of cheese and drizzled with truffle oil, prepared tableside. They offer a six-course tasting menu every day along with their regular menu and the service is prompt and friendly.

Jackson Diner moved to its present location, 37-47 74th St., three years ago, but the Indian food is still the same, Reviewers advise visiting at lunchtime to take advantage of the all you can eat open buffet. “The staff is very friendly and the food is delicious,” is a common comment.

The Michelin Guide recommends another Thai restaurant, Bann Thai at 69-12 Austin St. in Forest Hills. The Asian art on the walls, statuettes on the banisters on the bar and even suspended from the ceiling make for a lovely setting. With its dimmed lighting and sensational food it’s a great place for a couple on a date, a cozy dinner for two or a slightly larger gathering. Dishes are offered both spicy and more mild, but anyone who revels in authentic Thai flavor will be more than satisfied with Bann Thai’s combination of sweet and hot spices. The prices are great and the service friendly.

Kum Gang San at 138-28 Northern Blvd, Flushing completes the list. This Korean restaurant boasts a family-style atmosphere and warm and inviting traditional Korean décor that rank it among the best places in Queens to sample Korean barbecue, including kalbi (ribs), bul go ki (beef), and jae yook gui (pork). At lunch, they offer a Japanese-style sushi bar considered superb by some diners.

Raphael Sutter, owner of 718, noted that some restaurants will never get into the Michelin Guide and even with no stars, the case with the Queens 13, a listing is an honor. All garnered honorable mentions, which still rank them well above a great number of New York City dining spots.

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