2009-04-15 / Restaurant of the Week

Limoncello Italian Restaurant

Limoncello Italian Restaurant

What a surprise it was to visit this quaint, little Italian restaurant on a petite corner at 82nd Street and the convergence of Baxter and Ithaca Avenues in Elmhurst. The triangular shaped park just across the street, lends a European feeling to this quiet, friendly restaurant. Limoncello is an oasis of good food and tranquility, yet is located just half a block from the 7 train's 82nd Street station.

Limoncello's charming interior includes delicate curtains on the windows, crisp linens on the twelve tables topped with fresh flowers, and warm yellow walls with soft lighting to create a very inviting atmosphere in which to dine. Soft music fills the air, along with delicious aromas emanating from the kitchen. Owner Carlos Galvez runs the dining room while his brother and partner José, creates delicious appetizers, pasta, meat, fish and salads for all to enjoy.

Start with a glass of robust red wine such as Montepulciano or Chianti and nibble on the warm, crunchy bruschetta brought to your table. The signature Limoncello salad is noteworthy for its freshness and flavor as it combines baby greens with bits of creamy goat cheese, tomatoes, orange slices and walnuts and a lovely vinaigrette dressing. Grilled asparagus is another house specialty or choose fresh mozzarella and tomato with basil, called a 'Caprese' after the island of Capri, from where this salad originates. Fresh clams can be prepared oreganata style with bread crumbs and butter, possilipo style with white wine and herbs, or casino style, topped with smoky bacon ($9). Stuffed mushrooms or peppers and tender, fried calamari are ideal for sharing. A steaming bowl of house made pasta e fagioli soup or stracciatella (Italian chicken and stars) will take the chill out of these not-quite spring nights.

Limoncello offers a dozen sauces for your choice of pasta dishes, such as meat sauce over rigatoni, Alfredo sauce over fettuccine, puttanesca sauce over spaghetti and white or red clam sauce over linguine. Choose your own combination of pasta and sauce from $10 to $12. Baked pasta dishes are also on the menu, including lasagna, manicotti and homemade gnocchi. In addition, there are nightly pasta specials, with kudos for the handmade ravioli filled with either wild mushrooms, spinach, pumpkin or roasted peppers and mozzarella. My dining companion and I decided to share an order of the wild mushroom ravioli as a first course, topped with a light sauce of garlic and oil and found them to be delicate, light and flavorful.

Limoncello specializes in fish and seafood and purchases the best the market has each day. The Limoncello seafood combination is a mammoth sized platter of fresh scallops, shrimp, mussels, a lobster tail, salmon and tilapia over a mound of spaghetti, or the pasta of your choice ($24). Even though we shared this one dish, we still could not finish the generous portion and so I enjoyed a nice lunch the next day. Fillet of sole, trout or tilapia can be broiled or sautéed with lemon, butter and white wine ($18). The catches of the day included a whole bronzino broiled with garlic and oil, or stuffed fillet of sole with shrimp, clams, garlic and lemon. Wild sea bass livornese is sautéed with tomatoes, onions and capers for a delicious meal.

Meat and chicken entrées are great too and include classics such as chicken Marsala, Francese, rollatini, piccata or scarpariello style with sausage. Juicy pork chops can be broiled or pan-fried with sweet and hot cherry peppers. Limoncello's T-bone steak is as good as you would fine in a steak house. Tender and juicy, this T-bone was perfectly cooked and served with sautéed spinach, broccoli or green beans. Tender veal cutlets are prepared in a number of ways, and the hefty veal chop will satisfy even the biggest appetite. The nightly special was veal osso buco, cooked for hours, rendering the meat succulent and tender and served with creamy risotto.

Limoncello is open seven days a week and offers a terrific lunch special from 11:00am until 3:00pm, Mondays through Saturdays. For just $11 choose a soup or salad, main course with side dish and soft drink. Save room for dessert because the carrot cake is moist and rich, the chocolate mousse cake is irresistible and the tiramisu is creamy and light. A platter of Italian pastries will taunt you, as will the tartufo ice cream treat.

Finish your meal with one of these delicious desserts, a rich cup of coffee or espresso and a cordial such as limoncello, for which the restaurant is named. Limoncello welcomes guests seven days a week with delicious Italian cuisine including pasta, fish and seafood, meat and fine desserts. You'll be treated warmly with excellent service to match the fine food. Buon appetito!

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