New Cesco Italian Kitchen Is Based On Tradition
T he Ramunni family has been in the restaurant and catering business in Astoria for decades and has always attentively served the community it loves. On the site of Gables, which they ran successfully for 37 years, is their latest venture, named Cesco, a nickname for Francesco Ramunni, the founder. The site was completely reconstructed and is now a vibrant Italian restaurant with beautiful architectural and design details as well as an impressive menu. On all counts, Cesco's Italian Kitchen, which opened in February, will not disappoint you and the moderate prices will appeal to all.
Maurizio, the congenial manager, sat us at a comfortable table in the light and airy dining room which combines stone, woven bamboo, wood, frosted glass and leather banquettes. The overall look is clean and sophisticated, making Cesco a great place to unwind and enjoy a great meal after a long day.
Over glasses of full-bodied Chianti we shared wonderful antipasti of fresh mussels prepared in a slightly piquant, garlicky tomato sauce ($6.95). The basket of bread made quick work of soaking up the delicious juices. Ramekins of creamy white bean spread and roasted pepper tapenade will whet your appetite for more of the tasty dishes. Among the appetizers that are best shared are the assorted bruschetta, toasted slices of Italian bread topped with variety of items such as pate, chopped fresh tomato and basil, caponata (eggplant salad) and rich basil pesto. Mozzarella in carrozza has been lightly battered and panfried for a decadent treat, while the salmone crudo, thinly sliced carpaccio of fresh salmon, melts on the tongue. Now that warm weather is here, a fresh salad of bitter greens, sliced beets, walnuts and pears provides a delightful combination of textures and flavors to wake up the taste buds.
Cesco's Italian Kitchen has a manageably sized menu that includes carefully selected pasta dishes, fish, seafood, meat and chicken dishes to please everyone. Best of all, each dish is perfectly executed on the spot and arrives piping hot. Each one emanates its own irresistible aroma.
Pasta is where it all begins, and even a simple dish of spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce is extra special here. We indulged in a Roman favorite: spaghetti carbonara. Though this dish is made with just a few ingredients, including smoky pancetta, onions and egg yolks, it takes a skillful chef to make sure it doesn't turn into a Western omelet. The chef prepared our order perfectly. It had a smooth, creamy texture that wasn't dry or sticky. House made ravioli of the day can be filled with sweet lobster meat, a mix of woodland mushrooms or a combination of cheeses. Two people can share pasta as a first course, or any one of Cesco's pasta dishes can be dinner in itself.
Flaky, white monkfish is cooked to perfection and served with creamy polenta, olives and baby clams for just $16.95. Bronzino, a Mediterranean fish, is cooked whole with herbs and served with broccoli rabe and capers, with a counterpoint of sweet oranges and fennel. I will go back to Cesco to try the codfish wrapped in prosciutto, served atop a ragout of cannellini beans and butternut squash ($17.95).
Sink your teeth into one of their signature meat dishes, such as tender
flatiron steak pan roasted and served pizzaiola style. Cooking braised lamb shanks slowly for hours makes them fall away from the bone with ease. Escarole scented with sliced oranges makes a welcome accompaniment to this hearty dish ($18.95).
There's nothing like oven-roasted chicken and Cesco's Italian Kitchen takes this comforting dish a step further by serving it with buttery white beans, risotto rice balls that are crispy on the outside and creamy in the center, and fresh greens ($15.95). They do a fine job with chicken scarpariello as well, and if you must, there's chicken parmigiana for those seeking the familiar in their dining experience.
Dolci, or sweets, are not to be skipped at Cesco. Lemony ricotta cheesecake, chocolate decadence, apricot mascarpone mousse and strawberries with crme anglaise are just a few of the tempting choices. Don't forget to top off your meal with a rich espresso, cappuccino or caf Americano. After dinner cordials or port wine from the full bar are also a nice way to complete your meal.
Delicious Italian cuisine is served fresh from Cesco's Italian Kitchen to your table seven days a week for lunch and dinner. They are conveniently located at the corner of Broadway and 31st Street, just at the Broadway train stop on the N elevated train line, so meet a friend after work or treat your spouse to a lovely meal at Cesco's Italian Kitchen.