2006-02-22 / Restaurant of the Week

by Teresa Barile
n an age when restaurants come and go, it is a pleasure to visit Armondo’s, a well established, neighborhood Italian restaurant

in Jackson Heights. With 33

years of consistently delicious food and great service, Armondo’s is the preeminent choice in the area. The glass-enclosed atrium, which looks onto 75th Street, is still a popular place to dine and observe the bustle outside and Armondo’s Ristorante Italiano recently gave its main dining room a face lift, with the addition of new, chocolate colored booths, amber-colored walls and three huge mirrors. The overall effect is a lighter, airier dining room with more comfortable seating and an updated, polished look to this classic establishment.

One thing that has not changed is owner Jerry Crisci’s commitment to

quality and excellence. Crisci, who knows most of his customers by I name, is nearly always at the helm to ensure an excellent dining experience for all his customers. The new chef has added new nightly specials, such as homemade tricolore linguine with fresh seafood and cherry tomatoes, monkfish with fresh tomato, basil and capers or Cornish game hens with sausage stuffing for an expanded dining experience.

Sit back and relax while the waiters bring a plate of warm bruschetta to nibble on while you read the menu. The fully stocked bar offers fine wine selections such as Chianti, Shiraz, Cabernet and Pinot Grigio, or your favorite cocktail. On the evening we visited, one of the special appetizers of the evening was tender asparagus paired with buttery mozzarella and topped with red onion and a tangy balsamic dressing. Regularly offered appetizers include crispy baked clams, clams possilipo in a garlicky sauce, or clams casino, topped with smoky bacon. Stuffed mushrooms or peppers, provolone and olives and shrimp cocktail make choosing an appetizer even more difficult, but you can’t go wrong with any of these choices. Homemade soups of the day such as escarole, tortellini in brodo or pasta e fagioli are perfect on a winter night.

Menu items include traditional pasta dishes such as fettuccine Alfredo, pesto or carbonara, linguine with clam sauce and, of course, rich, meaty lasagna. Gnocchi with meat sauce is fabulous, as is Sicilian style ziti with slices of fresh eggplant. There are nightly pasta specials too, such as ravioli filled with chicken and roasted peppers or the risotto of the day. Your waiter will describe each special in mouth-watering detail.

One of the house specialties is Pork Chops Armondo. Two hefty pork chops are filled with thinly sliced ham and cheese, then prepared in a savory brown sauce with lots of sliced mushrooms ($19). The special vegetable of the day was grilled yellow squash, which provided a nice counterpoint to this substantial dish. Veal or chicken can be prepared a number of ways, including Francese, cacciatore style with tomatoes and onions or Sorrentino style, with eggplant and cheese. The broiled veal chop is tender and delicious. One of the signature dishes at Armondo’s is bracciole, a steak that has been pounded thin, then rolled with cheese, ham and pignoli nuts and cooked in rich tomato sauce. Armondo’s bracciole is as good as my grandmother’s. A generous side dish of pasta completes this meal and will satisfy a hearty appetite.

Fresh fish offerings include salmon prepared in Dijon mustard sauce or flaky fillet of sole or halibut with potato and vegetable ($19). Seafood lovers have many options to choose among such as tender, plump shrimp prepared any way you like: fra diavolo, oreganata, parmigiana, Francese or scampi with loads of garlic. Armondo’s frutta di mare combines lobster tail, shrimp, sole, scallops, mussels and clams in a light sauce over pasta.

Take a mid-week break at Armondo’s. Each Wednesday of every month features a special dish. The first Wednesday is Irish night, with corned beef and cabbage. The second Wednesday juicy lamb chops are offered, while the third Thursday has a festival of Spanish paella. On the fourth Wednesday, a Roman feast of roast suckling pig with all the trimmings, including Armondo’s famous potato croquettes and saut√©ed vegetables ensues.

Save room for dessert. You’ll decide among creamy Italian ricotta cheesecake, homemade tiramisu, rich carrot cake, fluffy √©clairs and ice cream c r e a t i o n s . Armondo’s makes a great cup of espresso to complete your fabulous meal and after dinner cordials are offered as well.

Armondo’s is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, with economical lunch specials each day. They will even deliver their delicious dishes free of charge within a 10block radius. With consistently delicious food, great service and the newly redecorated dining room, there’s no better time to visit Armondo’s Ristorante Italiano, serving the Jackson Heights community for 33 years.

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