RESTAURANT Of The WEEK
B obby Puccio, the proud owner of Bartolino's Restaurant, invites everyone into his elegantly appointed dining room that resembles a Mediterranean villa, with
alabaster columns and cool tile floors, soft lighting, a roaring fireplace and music to enjoy phenomenal Italian cuisine from all regions of Italy. Along with the décor and cuisine, superior service makes any night special, whether it's a romantic dinner for two or a professionally catered event for up to 160 people. Indeed, Bartolino's is an excellent place for any gathering, large or small. Best of all, the prices are agreeable.
To start, I recommend a bottle of Tuscan Montepulciano or a cocktail from the fully stocked bar. I was happy to learn that my favorite appetizer was a special tonight, as it often is, due to popular demand. Bartolino's fresh octopus salad with cubes of potato and red onion in a tangy lemon dressing simply cannot be beat. Diced red and green bell peppers give this tender seafood salad a festive look and the portion is generous enough for two or even three to share. Clams Casino are topped with smoky bacon and broiled till crisp and golden. Soak up those tantalizing juices with warm bread, while Mario, your very entertaining waiter, brings the next course. A must try is the Bartolino salad. This freshly tossed salad is bursting with flavor from fresh arugula, olives, pine nuts and slices of orange, topped with shaved parmigiano for a wonderful composition of flavors. Hot appetizers on the menu include grilled Portobello mushrooms topped with bubbling cheese and mussels Luciano, prepared in a light white sauce with tender cannellini beans for a unique combination ($9). Another popular choice is the eggplant rollatini, filled with creamy ricotta and topped with homemade tomato sauce ($9). Also tempting is a bowl of the chef's homemade escarole soup or pasta e fagioli, with tender white beans.
Bartolino's offers fine cuisine from all regions of Italy, made with lots of love and only the freshest meats, seafood, pasta and vegetables. Pasta dishes are prepared on the spot and served in generous portions. The pasta special was tender, handmade ravioli filled with sweet lobster meat and finished with a tomato vodka sauce. Penne with broccoli rabe and sausage is one of my all-time favorites ($16), and there are also classic
pasta dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese in a rich meat sauce with just a touch of cream and linguine with white or red clam sauce ($17). Gnocchi al pesto is accompanied by a fragrant sauce of basil, garlic and pine nuts. Spaghetti carbonara, a Roman dish, is made with Italian bacon called pancetta, chopped onions and a touch of cream. The handmade manicotti are just like grandma's. Pasta dishes can be shared as a first course before your next course.
Bartolino's serves fresh fish and seafood such as fillet of salmon Asa Ciento over a bed of spinach in a creamy garlic sauce ($20). Fillet of red snapper is prepared with olive oil, garlic, white wine and lemon. I enjoyed the tilapia special of the evening, prepared similarly with capers for an extra kick. Fresh shrimp or mussels in spicy red sauce are served over a mound of linguine.
Tender veal or chicken cutlets are prepared in several styles including Francese, Marsala, Parmigiana, Milanese or Florentine with prosciutto and provolone and finished with a light spinach cream sauce. Veal saltimbocca, a classic Italian dish, is topped with spinach and cheese. Chicken scarpariello just falls off the bone when you touch it with a fork. Potatoes and sausage add a nice touch to this dish. Chicken vagostella topped with prosciutto and mozzarella in a mushroom
w i n e s a u c e remains a popular dish. Juicy shell steaks are always available and cooked to your liking.
Desserts imported from Italy include creamy coconut sorbetto served in a coconut shell, mixed berry tart, amaretto cake and ricotta cheesecake. Don't forget to order an espresso and an after dinner liqueur to cap off your meal.
Bartolino's can stage professionally catered private parties for 10 to 160 people. In warm weather, French doors in the back open to reveal an outdoor garden for additional guests. Limited parking is available behind the restaurant. Menus, starting with a three-course, sit-down meal can be arranged, and can be customized. Call as early as possible to plan your spring or summer event.
Bartolino's makes any meal special. The food, wine, ambience and service all culminate in a splendid dining experience. They're closed on Tuesdays, but open for dinner from 3 to 11 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and from noon to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. If it's too cold to go out, Bartolino's will deliver to you, or you can pick up a fabulous meal on your way home from work. Bartolino's will soon celebrate 18 years of fine dining in Astoria. Buon Appetito!