2007-01-31 / Restaurant of the Week

Pasta Del Giorno Makes Any Day Special

70-49 Austin Street + Forest Hills + 718.261.1075
by Teresa Barile

P asta del Giorno makes any day special with a great selection of home-style pastas, meat and seafood entrees at reasonable prices. Located on Austin Street in Forest Hills, Pasta del Giorno has been a staple in the neighborhood for 17 years, and is still run

with pride by Anthony Gauna and Hector

Sandez and staffed by professional, dedicated waiters whose efficient service adds to your dining pleasure. The beautiful, serene interior, which resembles an Italian villa, is done in warm blush hues and holds plenty of plants, soft lighting and soothing music. Whether you're celebrating a special occasion, or just winding down from a day at work, Pasta del Giorno makes any meal a reason to celebrate, especially given the reasonable prices and fine cuisine.

Pasta del Giorno offers a wonderful selection of reasonably priced wines from Italy, Chile and California as well as after-dinner cordials. The full bar can also mix your favorite cocktails.

A plate of freshly made bruschetta appeared just moments after we were seated and as we sipped on glasses of wine, our waiter recited the evening's specials to us. Antipasti from the menu run from $5.50 to $10.50 and include mussels steamed in an aromatic broth of wine, garlic and herbs. Baked clams with just the right amount of garlic are crisp and golden. A special appetizer of the evening was crab cakes, breaded, then baked, not fried, to keep them light and healthy. One of my favorite starters is carpaccio, raw filet mignon sliced paper thin, topped with shaved parmigiano and nestled in a bed of fragrant arugula. Assorted grilled vegetables are beautifully presented and generously sized for two to share. Even the salads are impressive, with fresh ingredients such as arugula, endive and radicchio making up a tricolore, or a hearty Caesar with crunchy croutons.

Pasta del Giorno boasts home-style pasta, and as someone who could eat pasta every day, I can say that there is no comparison between their fresh pasta and the dried variety. Fresh pasta dishes run from $12.95 to $14.95 and are made to order and served piping hot. From the thinnest cappellini tossed with fresh vegetables and shallots to the toothsome tortellini della Nonna with rich meat sauce, peas and mushrooms, there's a pasta dish to satisfy everyone. Linguine frutta di mare is replete with fresh seafood in a light tomato sauce. My dining companion dove into a sumptuous platter of taglierini Toscana. This thin, spaghetti-like pasta is prepared with sautéed spinach, white beans and roasted garlic to create a healthy and robust winter dish. Risotto made from pearly Arborio rice infused with saffron and special ingredients of the day, such as woodsy porcini mushrooms or fresh seafood is a winter staple in Northern Italy and one of Pasta del Giorno's outstanding offerings.

While the menu entrées include a tempting variety of fresh fish, veal, chicken and even juicy steak, the specials of the evening will make deciding even more of a challenge. Tender veal sautéed with Barolo wine and Portobello mushrooms can be cut with a fork and the savory sauce goes well with the oven-roasted potatoes that accompany the meal. Try the extra thick veal chop, grilled to perfection, or tender veal scaloppini sautéed with wild mushrooms and a touch of cognac. A roasted rack of lamb is as beautifully presented as it is delicious, cooked to your liking and served with potato and fresh vegetables. Petti di pollo alla Toscana is tender chicken breast with spinach and herbs. Chicken Castello Romano is sautéed with artichoke hearts and mushrooms in a light brown sauce. You can also keep things simple and have tender grilled chicken with lemon and fresh herbs.

Your waiter will describe the fresh catch of the day. If nothing on the list strikes your fancy, try the fresh trout with balsamic vinegar sauce or the grilled salmon. Shrimp sautéed in butter, wine and garlic served with pasta can't be beat.

We devoured plates of bananas flambé with cool vanilla ice cream, though créme brulee cheesecake also sounded great. Sweet strawberries with warm zabaglione sauce as well as ice cream tartufo are classic desserts.

At lunchtime, you can enjoy slightly smaller portions of many of Pasta del Giorno's classic dishes for $9.50 and up. Pasta del Giorno is open seven days a week, for lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner Monday through Thursday to 11 p.m. and until midnight on weekends. Dinner only is served on Sundays from 2 to 11 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended on the weekends to avoid waiting. Gauna will happily arrange a private party or special dinner for your business associates, family or friends.

Whether it's lunch or dinner, a meal at Pasta del Giorno turns an ordinary day into a special one, as you linger over a lovely repast. The food, ambience and service are consistently great. Visit Pasta del Giorno for the finest home-style pasta and Italian fare.

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