2009-05-13 / Restaurant of the Week

Sophisticated Dining At BARTOLINO'S

With superb Italian cuisine, fine wines, excellent service and a gorgeous dining room in which to enjoy them, Bartolino's is Astoria's best kept secret for sophisticated dining. The warm, inviting décor resembles a Tuscan

 
villa with tile floors, dappled walls and soft lighting. Floral bouquets are set throughout the dining room, completing the ambiance. No wonder so many families choose Bartolino's for their families' special events. Bartolino's celebrates its 20th year this year, and has hosted hundreds of birthday parties, christenings, showers, engagement parties, weddings and all life's special moments. Owner Bobby Puccio and his professional staff make every meal memorable and if you've never eaten here, you are missing something special.

Have your professional waiter uncork a bottle of wine, one of many in the extensive cellar from Italy, California, Chile and Argentina. Then start with one of Bartolino's tempting appetizers, including the house stuffed Portobello mushroom, with savory cheese and herbs, fresh mussels Luciano, prepared in a white wine and garlic sauce, or baked clams oreganata, with bread crumbs and a buttery sauce ($9). Eggplant rollatini is filled with fluffy ricotta and ideal for sharing. Couples dining might also want to share the hot antipasto for two, which features a taste of many of these savory dishes on one platter.

 
Hearty soups are made daily, such as escarole and bean and pasta e fagioli, which both go well with warm loaves of crusty bread brought to your table. My favorite salad bears the restaurant's name and is composed of tender baby arugula, olives, slices of orange, toasted pine nuts, sliced Reggiano parmigiano and a citrusy dressing that whets your appetite for the next course.

In Italy, pasta is treated as the "first course" served after the antipasto and before the main course. Here, a variety of hand made pasta can be ordered as a main course or shared between two as a first course. My dining companion and I shared a generous serving of the chef's farfalle pasta with chunks of juicy salmon in a light, tomato cream sauce. Penne with broccoli rabe and sausage remains one of my favorites and the chef does a fine job of it. Tender ravioli parcels are filled with cheese, meat or porcini mushrooms for an irresistible first course, ideal for sharing. Few can resist hand-rolled manicotti crepes filled with ricotta cheese, or toothsome gnocchi tossed with rich and meaty Bolognese sauce or fragrant pesto sauce.

 
Bartolino's offers the finest fish, seafood and meats available and the waiter will tell you about the special catches of the day. Fillet of salmon Asa Ciento is moist and tender, served over a bed of spinach in a creamy garlic sauce ($19). Fillet of red snapper is simply sautéed with olive oil, garlic, lemon and white wine for a light and flavorful meal, while the broiled fillet of sole is prepared oreganata style, with breadcrumbs, herbs and garlic. Plump shrimp or fresh mussels are prepared fra diavolo style, in a spicy sauce laid on top of al dente linguine. Shrimp marinara is a milder version and shrimp parmigiana is a classic dish.

As a big fan of chicken Francese, and having eaten it hundreds of times, I can say that Bartolino's version is one of the best ever for the fork-tender cutlets and delicate, perfectly brown color, texture and lemony flavor of the sauce. The accompanying sautéed spinach with garlic and oil was just right, as were the oven-roasted potatoes. Other chicken or veal cutlets can be prepared in several other styles including Marsala, parmigiana, Milanese or Florentine, with prosciutto and provolone, finished with a light spinach cream sauce. Chicken vagostella remains a popular dish, topped with prosciutto and mozzarella in a mushroom wine sauce ($19). Veal saltimbocca is a classic Italian dish, topped with spinach and cheese. Broiled veal chops are prepared Italian style with tangy vinegar peppers. Juicy shell steaks are always available and cooked to your liking as well as steak pizzaiola, with tomatoes, oregano and cheese.

 
Desserts are something special too, as they come in every day from Italy. Mixed berry tart, raspberry cheesecake, creamy tiramisu and frozen cassata ice cream to name just a few. Everyone will love the fresh fruit sorbets, whimsically served in their natural shell and include coconut, lemon, orange and pineapple. Of course, no meal would be complete without a steaming cup of espresso, cappuccino or American coffee and a delicious after dinner cordial such as Amaretto or Frangelico.

 

 

 

For a truly memorable meal for two or more, or a complete catered event, call Bobby and the staff at Bartolino's, Astoria's best kept secret for sophisticated Italian cuisine. Bartolino's is closed on Tuesday, and open from 3pm to 11:30pm the rest of the week, and from 12:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays for your dining pleasure. Buon appetito!

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