2008-06-25 / Restaurant of the Week

PALERMO… Italo-Argentino Cuisine

30-10 Steinway Street, Astoria 718.777.6488
By Teresa Barile

PALERMO… Italo-Argentino Cuisine

For a unique cuisine from two continents, you must visit Palermo Restaurant and Steakhouse on Steinway Street in Astoria. Palermo's menu reflects the marriage of two closely connected countries and cultures; Italy and Argentina. Around the time of the Second World War, millions of Italians immigrated to the shores of this South American country to start new lives, much as they did in New York. And just like in New York, Italians made an indelible impression on the culture of their new country, while blending in with the existing one. The result is a delicious cuisine that combines classic Italian dishes with lots of juicy steaks and dishes that Argentina is famous for. By the way, Argentina is also famous for fine wines, many of whose vines also emigrated from Europe and Palermo has a great selection to enjoy.

Palermo is a family affair, headed by the fatherson team of Oswaldo and Franco Garabato, and the restaurant is named for the family's ancestral home in Sicily. The Garabato's have years of experience in the restaurant and bakery business and they've done a nice job of creating a warm and friendly atmosphere in this cheerful eatery. Wooden tables dressed in white and burgundy linens rest on cool tile floors in the main dining room that could also accommodate a private party of up to 40 people. The wait staff is friendly and efficient and the food is fantastic.

Start with some of their fabulous cross-cultural appetizers. From the Italian side, you'll find creamy, buttery mozzarella di buffalo with sliced tomatoes, prosciutto and basil ($9.95). Grilled provolone sprinkled with aromatic oregano is a savory treat, and the fried calamari are crispy and tender. For two dining together, the hot antipasto platter offers stuffed mushrooms, stuffed peppers, crispy baked clams, eggplant rollatini, grilled shrimp and mussels with garlic, perfect for sharing, especially when you soak up the delicious sauces with warm Italian bread. On the Argentinean side, you will love the handmade empañadas, flaky pastries filled with meat and spices, chicken or spinach. Tender flank steak is cut into strips and rolled up around Russian salad, a mix of diced potatoes, carrots and peas with a mayonnaise based dressing. Tortilla de espinaca is a traditional spinach omelet, also available with potato. The special Palermo Salad is a house favorite, made and served for four people. A large salad bowl tosses together tender watercress, tomato, onion, hearts of palm, avocado, white beans, shrimp, hard boiled eggs and peppers. The tangy dressing makes this salad extra special and could be a meal in itself ($18.95).

If you love pasta, Palermo offers over a half dozen pasta dishes for just $7.95. Choose your favorite pasta from among linguine, fusilli, cappellini and fettuccine and top it with your choice of sauce, including marinara, alla Norma with eggplant, creamy Alfredo, carbonara, Bolognese and others. Palermo is famous for its house made cannelloni, which are tender handmade pasta sheets rolled up with fluffy ricotta cheese and fresh, chopped spinach. This generous serving of cannelloni can be topped with either tangy tomato sauce or a white béchamel sauce and I defy you to finish the whole plate.

Argentina is famous for its high quality meats, cooked to perfection on an open fire, and Palermo is the place to go for entraoa, or grilled skirt steak. Available in a whole order, or a half order, this tender meat is so rich with flavor and texture, it needs only a sprinkling of salt, but spoon on some traditional chimichurri sauce, and the flavors just explode. Grilled short ribs of beef are cooked just right, so that the succulent meat falls off the bone easily. Two juicy pork chops or T-bone steak are other excellent choices, but you shouldn't skip the famous Argentinean sausage or chorizo, either spicy red variety or the black blood sausage, both of which cook up crispy and juicy on the grill. If you can't decide, or if you're with a hungry table of diners, choose the mixed grill or parillada that provides a sampling of several meats, chicken and sausage. Best of all, all meat entreés are served with indescribably creamy and delicious mashed potatoes, French fries or rice and a crunchy salad.

From Italy are classic dishes such as tender, boneless chicken prepared a number of ways including scarpariello, Francese, piccata with capers, cacciatore, parmigiana, or just plain Milanese style. Veal is prepared in similar fashion as are jumbo tender shrimp.

Save room for their multi-cultural desserts where the flan is as light and creamy as the tiramisu. Cheese cake, coffee cake and chocolate mousse cake are all great for sharing with two steaming cups of espresso, cappuccino or coffee.

For fine Italo-Argentino cuisine, juicy steaks, fine wine and great service, all at good prices, visit Palermo soon. They're open for lunch and dinner from 12pm to 11pm weekdays and until midnight on weekends and there's free delivery. The lunch special costs just $8.95 and includes soup or salad, an entrée with side dish and a glass of wine. Buon appetito and buen provecho!

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